Excerpted From: Alesia Ash, The Militarization of Mexico's Border and its Impacts on Human Rights, 51 International Journal of Legal Information 58 (Spring, 2023) (129 Footnotes) (Full Document Requested)


AlesiaAshBetween 800,000 and one  million people are estimated to traverse Mexico from Central America each year, endeavoring to reach the United States. These migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees are forced north for a myriad of deeply personal reasons, but most commonly a combination of rampant crime and violence, economic insecurity, government failures, environmental forces, impacts from the global coronavirus pandemic, and, of course, a hope for a better life. Government policies that militarize migration control make the already daunting journey more dangerous. To that end, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has repeatedly voiced concern about policies that aim to militarize borders and their direct negative impact on human rights. But despite the corrosive effects on human rights, the militarization of national borders is increasing throughout the globe, and it is especially stark between “first world” and developing countries.

The United States has driven this trend by outsourcing border militarization to other countries, most recently and intensely to Mexico and other Central American nations. In the United States, this preference for militarization has been bipartisan, consistent through both Democratic and Republican presidential administrations. We are accustomed to the militarized United States-Mexico border, but this alarming trend is increasingly apparent at Mexico's southern border. One can picture it as the United States extending its border more than a thousand miles south to crack down on migrants and asylum-seekers.

This research paper explores Mexico's recent push to militarize immigration enforcement following pressure from the United States. Militarization refers broadly to enhanced border enforcement, emphasizing “the use of military rhetoric and ideology, as well as military tactics, strategy, technology, equipment and forces,” which conflicts with the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers. Militarization is key to the “prevention through deterrence” strategy, which aims to reduce immigration by making the journey more arduous and costly, if not deadly. It forces migrants to evade increased border personnel and military technology, such as night vision technology, underground sensors, and drone surveillance. These intentional barriers force migrants to rely on expensive and exploitive guides and take more dangerous and remote routes.

The paper begins with a brief background on the migration situation in Mexico and Central America. Next, we focus on the creation of the Mexican National Guard and its deployment to the border. We then discuss how Mexico's migration enforcement and detention practices may be violating its own Constitution and international law. Finally, the paper explores the impacts increased enforcement and militarization have had on the human rights of migrants and recommendations to improve the migration system and protect human rights.

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Mexico will continue to face the difficult task of balancing migration enforcement with human rights protection and pressure from the United States to do more to stop the flow of migrants. While not the focus of this paper, future papers might take a more in-depth look at how the United States exerts pressure over other countries to implement its characteristic border militarization. This United States practice is destructive to the human rights of all people and must end. It should not require another photo of a parent and child dead for the United States to live and breathe its commitment to human rights. Shifting resources from criminalization and detention efforts to programs that affirm human rights would be a good start.