Amidst heartbreaking scenes repeated along Mexico's northern border, we watch migrants board the dreaded train known as "La Bestia" (The Beast).
They are men, women, children and even babies who risk their lives in search of the prosperity and stability they cannot find in their home countries. The harsh reality is that, in many cases, the conditions in which they live on the streets are unhealthy, as the shelters cannot accommodate everyone.
Hope and despair
For the most daring, the option is to jump over walls or cross the dangerous Rio Grande (called the Rio Bravo in Mexico) in a desperate attempt to reach the other side and turn themselves in to border authorities, in the hope that they will not be deported or returned to Mexico.
However, their journey is fraught with unimaginable dangers. Daily testimonies speak of extortion, abuse of women, unscrupulous traffickers, robberies and long waits to obtain the documents that will allow them to move in Mexico. They even face the risk of becoming victims of drug cartel violence.
Tragically, many of these brave migrants never reach their destination. They die trying. Mexican civil organizations sadly report that the year 2022 was particularly tragic, with around 900 migrants losing their lives in their quest for the American dream. They are no longer among us.
Elon Musk: Pro-migrant as long as it is legal
This migration crisis at Mexico's northern border has not gone unnoticed by Elon Musk, the entrepreneur who is listed as the world's richest man in the Bloomberg and Forbes billionaire indexes. Musk, who last Thursday visited Eagle Pass, Texas, declared himself "extremely pro-migrant".
At the same time, however, he emphasized the need to end illegal immigration, advocating an expansion and simplification of legal immigration. In his own words, "Anyone who proves to be hardworking, talented and honest can become an American." He further posed an intriguing question, "Why do so many U.S. politicians of both parties care 100 times more about the Ukrainian border than the U.S. border?"
The migration crisis has worsened on both Mexico's northern and southern borders. Between January 1 and September 22, 2023, immigration agents have detained just over 1.4 million people attempting to enter the country illegally. Of this total, 788,000 were deported to their countries of origin by land and air, according to a report by the National Institute of Migration that was reproduced by CNN.
On Mexico's southern border, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports a constant flow of between 3,000 and 6,000 migrants entering every 24 hours. In view of this situation, the governments of the United States and Mexico have reached an agreement to alleviate the pressure on the northern Mexican cities bordering El Paso, Eagle Pass, Texas, and San Diego, California. Among the measures adopted are restricting the railroad system and the deportation of migrants.
Giovanni Lepri, UNHCR's representative in Mexico, has divided migrants into two groups: those who leave their countries for economic reasons and those displaced due to political reasons or violence. The Americas is the region where the migratory phenomenon has experienced a significant increase in recent years, with an increase in the number of countries of origin of people seeking protection or better living conditions.
Mexico as a refuge
Giovanni Lepri emphasizes that Mexico, as the 15th largest economy in the world with a population of 130 million, has the capacity to host and assimilate refugees and people on the move. UNHCR's refugee integration programs demonstrate with solid data that Mexico is an asylum country in need of both skilled and unskilled labor. When proper immigration documentation is provided, these individuals are successfully integrated into Mexican society.