Last week, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina launched a program aimed at regulating the influx of immigrants from Guatemala to Mexico called Southern Border or “Frontera Sur.”
Intended to improve the system for cataloging migrant movements between both countries, the program aims to increase information on migrants, and thus help the countries’ ability to control and regulate their transit.
These efforts are long overdue. Unfortunately, they fail to properly address the most serious challenges. Guatemala and Mexico’s porous 600-mile border has only eight legal border crossings — but it also has hundreds of unofficial entry points. For Guatemala, the most northern country in Central America, securing this border should be a priority. Complicating this problem is the issue of the infamous cargo train known as “La Bestia,” or “The Beast.”
Most of the unlawful immigrants coming to the United States from Central America ride atop this train, which takes them from Southern Mexico to Mexican cities along the U.S.-Mexico border. On a given day, there are hundreds of men, women, and children crammed on the roof of this train.
It is known that this train departs every two to three days from the city of Arriaga, in the state of Chiapas. It is a perilous journey and many immigrants die attempting to climb aboard the moving train. Those who are able to board the train become prey to drug traffickers, such as the Zetas and Maras, who climb atop it to kidnap, extort, mug or murder them. The train has derailed several times, killing hundreds of migrants. Despite knowing all this, the Mexican government has still turned a blind eye and failed to secure the train.
Mexico has also designated neighborhoods called “tolerance zones” in which prostitution and other nefarious activity is legal. The set up of these neighborhoods sends a message that the Mexican government can’t maintain law and order in their country. These “tolerance zones” are prevalent in Mexico’s southern border states where drug cartels often lure female migrants into working as prostitutes in these zones. Many police offers and government officials are often corrupt, bought off by the cartels. By allowing businesses in the sex industry to flourish, human trafficking and unlawful migration will continue.
While the Southern Frontier program may provide some temporary political relief for the administrations in Mexico and Guatemala, it falls short of being effective. Border security and deterring unlawful migration requires more than patching up holes in a porous border.