News Analysis: "Our Migrants"
[Leer en español]. All of a sudden migrants are of great interest to huge numbers of politicians and organs of civil society within Mexican public life.
I say "all of a sudden" because, though the history of emigration from Mexico is long, never before have these migrants been a subject of meaningful discussion. Never! In 60 years these pundits have not shown a minimal interest in addressing the situation within Mexico. And much less in the USA.
News media and the press have long documented the experiences of those who took part in the Bracero project. The Braceros began as a temporary migrant work force in the U.S. in 1942 when the U.S. was at war with Germany and the Axis Powers.
We know about the Braceros mostly because they were forced to mobilize to demand that the Mexican government pay them the millions of dollars received from the US government for their work - money which the Mexican government skimmed away. Of course, this was due to the corruption of past governments, not the present administration, though it remains the current government's duty to resolve the issue.
The Braceros and migrants have never been quite so interesting to Mexican analysts and advocates as they are right now. The question is why are they suddenly so important? Why are politicians and intellectuals suddenly willing to invest money to seek them out? Why was this not a concern prior to Donald Trump?
We've long known about the abuse and suffering of migrants at the hands of coyotes on the Mexican side of the border, and how migrants are left to die in U.S. territory. We're aware of the insults and hatred of people like Sheriff Joe Arpaio in the county of Maricopa, Arizona. The same goes for "migrant hunter" groups that operate along the border between Sonora and Arizona. We've watched as the migrants ride "The Beast" from Chiapas to Mexico State. And we've stood by as they are nabbed by "la migra" on the 3,000km border we share. But nothing has ever been done. And yet now suddenly these travelers matter and they are "our migrants?"
This baldfaced hypocrisy must be called to account.
During the administration of the "admired" President Obama, 2.8 million undocumented Mexicans were deported - about 29,000 every month of Obama's presidency. Some argue the number is closer to 3.4 million. Did any of those who are marching in protest now make note of this before?
It appears they did not. There have not been any protests and marches in the past like what we saw last month on February 12 in Mexico City. The marchers numbered 22,000 it is estimated. It is not a number that is all that impressive. What did it accomplish? Has Trump changed his policies as a result? Of course not.
This "Big Little March" revealed divisions among those who claim to lead these social causes. The activists and intellectuals who drove this action are sensationalists and traders in hype that seek to highlight the fate of those they hyperbolically describe as "our migrants."
Consider: In 2010, the U.S. deported 389,834 people. In 2011, the number jumped to 396,906. And by 2012, the number was 409,849 deported, a new record. Thereafter, the numbers dropped a bit, but they never fell below 200,000 per year. Were these not also "our migrants?"
No one spoke in defense of these migrants. They were ignored completely, but now today, national media is "rending its garments" daily over migration issues.
Why are we concerned when an Anglo Saxon is U.S. president, but not when Obama was in office? Is it because Trump does not use the polite rhetoric of Obama and because Trump is politically incorrect? Is it because the critics were blind all those years and have suddenly seen the light? Of course not.
I argue that these suddenly enlightened critics were simply quite taken with Barak and Michelle's charisma and charm, and they were likewise content with the status quo.
What of the leaders of the Mexican political parties, such as Ricardo Anaya of the PAN, and Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his like in the PRI? What about the provincial governors of Morelos state and Mexico City? They visit migrants in Chicago, Atlanta, Phoenix, and L.A. in order to interview them. Why?
Could it be that these politicians are now on the campaign trail to be president of Mexico in 2018? How is it justifiable that the mayor of Juarez, Armando Cabada, travels with the Mexican delegation to Chicago, when millions of migrants pass through his city every year? By looking toward the 2018 elections, of course.
The truth is that migrants from Central and South America have always been interesting within Mexico, but not to our politicians and social workers. Rather, it has been evangelical pastors and Catholic priests who for decades now have created shelters for migrants along the border that run year-round. These small projects have always lacked the support and official encouragement of the men and women of politics who now pompously chastise Trump's administration and speak of the migrants as "theirs."
Our migrants have had to abandon their homeland because it has not offered them the most minimally acceptable standard of living. They have chosen to flee to a country that discriminates against them, but where they also meet good people. A place where a decent job can be found.
In truth, the homeland of "our migrants" has failed them and discriminated against them also, which caused the migrant crisis in the first place.
But despite all this, suddenly it is trendy to speak of these people as "our migrants," as if they were merely objects.
That is the heart of the matter.
Daniel Valles is TMP's Mexico contributor and commentator. He can be found on Twitter at @