Last week, Mexico granted federal humanitarian travel permits to 15,000 U.S.-bound third-country migrants, a group described as having formed the largest migrant caravan in Mexican history.
Reports say most of the migrants had planned to cross the border illegally into Del Rio and Eagle Pass. But now few, if any, have made it to the U.S.-Mexico border since police in the Mexican border state of Coahuila began blocking, detaining and even deporting these migrants in accordance with that state’s “Operation Mirror,” backed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Todd Bensman, an author and Texas-based senior national security fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies, shared more what’s been happening in southern Mexico. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: Tell us a little bit more about this caravan. I don’t think I’ve heard it discussed much in the popular press – 15,000 would-be migrants to the U.S. sounds like quite a lot. Can you tell us more about where it’s coming up from?
Todd Bensman: Sure. The caravan formed in Tapachula, Mexico, right on the Guatemala border; big city down there. And what happens is the Mexican government holds them back behind a kind of bureaucratic wall and makes them apply for humanitarian visas and asylum and things like that. And they slow roll it for a long time until huge numbers build up and they start to riot and cause civil disturbances. And at that point, the Mexicans say, ‘okay, enough’s enough. We’re going to grant you all one big visa thing and you can all go.’
And what countries are these migrants coming from?
These are primarily Venezuelans, Colombians, Cubans and Middle Easterners and Africans, too.
So I want to bring us up to present. The caravan arrives at the Mexican border state of Coahuila. And then apparently officials there as part of Coahuila’s “Operation Mirror” start to detain and deport many of these migrants. That sounds like it’s running counter to what the Mexican federal government is doing.
It is, yeah. They were really giving them a hard time. Everybody knew that they were going to the Del Rio sector. They said it. But this goes back to an agreement in April between Governor Greg Abbott and that governor of Coahuila. Remember that Abbott shut the bridges down by conducting safety inspections.
I do remember that. And so this “Operation Mirror” came about as a result of his conversations with some of the Mexican governors?
That’s right. And it’s all done under the threat that Abbott would close the bridges again and cause economic pain for the Mexican state.
And so is the governor of Coahuila making it clear that this is the direct result of conversations with Greg Abbott?
Well, I’m not aware that the Mexican governor is doing that. But Abbott is claiming that he notified the Mexican governor and said, ‘you’re going to stop this or we’re going to do the bridges again.’ And immediately afterward, you started to see these very aggressive police operations on the other side that had never happened before. And so what the operations are doing is, you know, they’re pulling them off the buses in Monterrey and Saltillo and not allowing them to get on the buses to get to Piedras Negros and Acuña. Ciudad Acuña, all of those roads in were blocked and people were being pulled off the vehicles and in many cases they were sent back to Monterrey by bus, and in some cases they were flown by air all the way back to Tapachula, all the way back to southern Mexico.
However, we are also seeing, you know, hundreds get through who are being processed into the United States. So it’s definitely not a hermetic seal, but it’s enough that it slowed things down and disrupted and maybe made some of these immigrants go elsewhere.
Is it known what has happened to those who have managed to make it to the border and cross into the U.S.?
Right. Well, almost all of them are being paroled into the United States and resettled across the country within 48 hours. That’s the draw, the enticement that draws them just inexorably over the border because they’re so close to complete freedom inside the United States. And it’s just almost too much to resist. And already we’ve got new caravans forming to the south because they saw that the prior caravan people are starting to get through.