US President Joe Biden's reversal of Donald Trump's crackdown on illegal immigration has turned people into a "commodity", Mexican officials say.
Mexican government sources told Reuters that people-traffickers — the so-called 'Coyotes' — have stepped up cross-border smuggling operations that saw a slump under Trump after the new administration brought in policies that “incentivise migration”.
One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said people-trafficking gangs changed their tactics “from the day Biden took office” and now showed “unprecedented” sophistication. They brief those they traffic on the latest immigration rules in the US, use technology to evade authorities and even masquerade as travel agencies.
“Migrants have become a commodity,” the official said, as valuable as narcotics. “But if a packet of drugs is lost in the sea, it’s gone. If migrants are lost, it’s human beings we’re talking about.”
That assessment echoes comments by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the morning after his March 1 virtual meeting with Biden and his Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“They see him as the migrant president, and so many feel they’re going to reach the United States,” AMLO said “We need to work together to regulate the flow, because this business can’t be tackled from one day to the next.”
Figures show illegal immigration has surged in the seven weeks since Biden took office, and at this rate 2021 could exceed the past three years for numbers of undocumented migrants.
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Another official said that with Biden signing an executive order to halt the construction of Trump's border wall, Mexico was considering improving its own infrastructure along its southern border with Guatemala and Belize.
“Mexico spends more on every new wave of migrants than that would cost,” they said. “We have to do it.”
The series of mass migrant caravans originating in Honduras since 2018 have crossed Guatemala and Mexico on their way to the US border.