A FEW THOUGHTS ON THE CENTRAL AMERICAN PROBLEM

Earlier this month we learned that Mexican president Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) agreed to take drastic measures to curb the growing level of Central American migrants traveling through Mexico, headed to the U.S. Currently, 11 thousand migrants seeking asylum are waiting, in several cities along the northern Mexican border, for a U.S. court hearing. There is no real indicators to suggest that they their requests will be granted, however, considering that less than 2% of those who apply are granted protection by the U.S. Government. The question becomes: what are the possibilities of resolving this issue?

If we address how a vast wave of Haitian migrants that arrived in the city of Tijuana in recent years integrated to Mexican society —almost overnight—, the simple answer is work. Since they were not granted asylum in the U.S., a large number of Haitian migrants are nowadays effectively participating as laborers in several sectors of the economy, from services to construction, to management positions. In fact, some Haitian migrants have received degrees from Mexican universities while others have established their own businesses. It thus becomes clear that an overlooked aspect in the recent measures promised by the Mexican Government to curtail Central American migration is specifically to facilitate their official status as workers. Instead of incarcerating or waiting for organized crime to profit from the migrant situation, it might be productive to expedite the process of Central American migrants becoming workers.

In the first quarter of 2019, for instance, work permits issued to Central American migrants by the Mexican Government was reduced by 40%. The ironic part is that assemblage factories in Northern Mexico are currently experiencing a shortage in labor supply. For example, logistic reports in the city of Tijuana indicate that factories are scrambling to find workers. Though it is important to consider that not all Central American migrants may be eligible for work —especially due to criminal backgrounds—, if Mexican authorities facilitate their working status, they will contribute to easing the situation on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Those currently detained in the U.S. Southwest could potentially integrate into the Mexican economy as workers in the factories located in the North.