Migrant Crisis Amid COVID-19By Rodrigo Brugada | Mon, 05/03/2021 - 20:07
The current pandemic has hit virtually everyone and it has hit hard. But when things get rough, those already suffering, as is the case of everyone in a marginalized or vulnerable position, often have it tougher. One important group in this precarious position is the migrant community.
As WHO states in a report for promoting the health of refugees and migrants, migrant and refugee populations face many challenges that impact their health. These challenges include lack of access to health services, barriers to seeking health, interruption in care for chronic conditions, food insecurity and a disproportionate amount of mental health-related issues. As a comment on The Lancet states, these challenges exist on top of another series of human rights abuses that have been made apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as discrimination, economic instability, lack of access to work and to adequate living conditions, sexual violence and the constant threat of detention, deportation, trafficking and slavery.
While these conditions are widespread among any migrant population globally, some particularities prevail in Latin American migrant communities such as changes in labor conditions and impacts on mental health, as explored by IRMO. These conditions are exacerbated in Mexican soil due to binational policy decisions aiming to curb migration at the southern border and throughout the journey towards the US, as stated in a policy brief by the Migration Policy Institute. One key policy aspect in Mexico was the creation of the National Guard and the subsequent increase in policing and militarization along the southern border, as reported by WOLA.
Medecins Sans Frontieres have repeatedly denounced the mass raids and arbitrary arrests along Mexico’s southern border. It has also stated that police activity near shelters or migrant facilities has pushed people into hiding or to choose more dangerous routes, making them more vulnerable to organized crime and extortion. Migrants along Mexico’s southern border are usually the target of assaults, robberies, rapes and kidnappings at the hands of organized crime or common criminals. Almost all of these crimes go unpunished because of barriers to justice or blatant impunity, as stated by OAS and reported by AP news.
On the US side, immigration has undoubtedly been a significant issue surrounding both policy and politics. The current administration has followed a long trend that attempts to curb undocumented immigrants by orchestrating changes outside of its borders, as explored in a two-part series by Latino USA. And while President Joe Biden has had trouble reconciling a humane treatment for immigrants with border control, policies instated during the Trump era have continued. In April, Press Secretary Jen Psaki told the press that “The objective is to make it more difficult to make the journey, and make crossing the borders more difficult.” These approaches to immigration, such as the continued use of Title 42 (which seeks to maintain public health safety through blocking access to and deporting immigrants), have created a dire situation at the border that has endangered thousands of migrants’ lives, making the journey potentially more lethal, as stated by a joint human rights report.
The US administration has appointed Vice-President Harris to manage the migrant situation. Mexico’s president and Vice-president Kamala Harris have announced that they would meet on May 7th to discuss migratory policy further, as reported by ABC news. During this meeting, one of the main topics will be some of the Mexican policies aimed at curbing migration and some international efforts aimed towards the same goal. But, as TNR states, migrants are fleeing their home countries in large part because of conditions that the US helped bring about and international efforts should address these root causes.