The COVID-19 Pandemic: The Perfect Excuse to Keep Alive a Speech that Seemed Worn

Guadalajara, July 23, 2020 – Border closures and travel restrictions were among the first measures implemented by President Trump to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the United States. This measure restricted travel and some commercial as well as non-essential work activities between Mexico and Canada. At the same time, quite extreme measures were taken on the issue of migration. Express deportations were implemented that allow the North American authorities to expel migrants without due process detained at the border on the grounds that the virus could enter the country. Also, deportations from the interior of the country continued. For the Trump administration, deportations became “essential crossroads.”

Deportations from the United States to Mexico increased by 40% during the month of June compared to the month of May, according to data presented by the CBP (Customs and Border Protection). The increase in migratory flows has occurred in the midst of the closure of borders, thousands of people try to reach the United States even knowing that it is one of the countries most affected during the pandemic in the American continent. “The general trend is that almost always when more migrants are detained it is because crossings are also increasing,” says Silvia Giorguli, an academic at the Colegio de México.

According to border patrol reports, last month they detained 32,512 people seeking to enter the United States without documents, while in May more than 23,000 were arrested. The numbers are still lower compared to June 2019, when more than 104,000 migrants were apprehended. The increase during June in proportion to May has given President Trump the perfect pretext to resume his promise to build the border wall to prevent the entry of migrants and cut the chain of contagion of the coronavirus.

Both Donald Trump and CBP Director Mark Morgan agree that “it is imperative to continue with the construction of the border wall,” to guarantee the non-entry of migrants to North American lands. It is worth mentioning that according to statistics “nine out of ten people caught crossing the border in June were single adults. The number of single adults from Mexico detained at the border is increasing this year, a major change from the arrests of mainly Central American families and unaccompanied children in 2019.”

The pandemic has momentarily reduced the flow of migrants trying to cross the border and has increased poverty both in Mexico and in the countries of Central America, which is why a new increase in the migratory flow is expected. Anti-immigration discourse and policies will surely sharpen during the return to the new normal and the US electoral campaign.

The health crisis caused by Covid-19 has been the perfect excuse to reactivate anti-immigrant strategies and above all to reactivate a discourse that seemed worn out. Migratory movements do not stop with viruses or walls.

Jairo Meraz Flores and Fr. José Juan Cervantes, c.s.


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