We Need Mexico’s Help to Have Any Hope of Solving the Child Migrant Crisis

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
July 21 2014 11:08 AM

Friends With Benefits

How a closer relationship with Mexico could help solve the child migrant crisis.

Obama Pena
President Obama shakes hands with his Mexican counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto after a joint news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City on May 2, 2013.

Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The United States and Mexico have an awkward relationship. For those of you who don’t know, the U.S. violently seized much of its territory from our neighbors to the south in the mid-19th century. That’s the kind of thing that leads to hard feelings. Mexico has, to be sure, shot itself in the foot in all kinds of ways. Yet it’s fair to say that Yankee imperialism has had a powerful influence on Mexico’s evolution, and not always for the better. It is doubly awkward, then, that the United States now needs Mexico to come to its rescue.

Specifically, the United States needs Mexico’s help to deal with the ongoing child migrant crisis at our mutual border. President Obama is insisting that something be done. Congressional Republicans are doing the same. I would be shocked if something weren’t done in the relatively near future. My concern is that the something in question will do nothing to address the reason we’re facing a child migrant crisis. And Mexico is the only country big enough, rich enough, and close enough to the heart of this humanitarian catastrophe to make a real difference.

Thus far, Mexico has barely entered the conversation. Rather, the debate has centered on whether Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans have been led to believe that the Obama administration will welcome unaccompanied Central American minors, or whether the violence in those countries is so extreme that it would be irresponsible to send them home. For Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans to make it to the United States at all, though, they must first cross Mexican territory. In an ideal world, Central Americans fleeing chaos at home could find refuge in Mexico—one of the world’s more prosperous countries, and one of the richest in Latin America. Indeed, in 2011 Mexico enacted a refugee law that is in many respects more generous than the laws on the books in the United States, though it’s not at all clear that this law bears any resemblance to what’s happening on the ground.

Advertisement

Some Central Americans would, of course, still want to make the trek to the United States even if Mexico offered them refuge, either to reunite with loved ones or to find more lucrative work. But that’s not really the issue at hand. Mexico, thankfully, is far safer and more stable than the countries to its south. If it is incapable of providing refuge to those truly in need, it would nevertheless be much better for the United States for migrants to be vetted on Mexican soil than in a chaotic scrum at the U.S.-Mexico border. The trouble is that getting to this point will require a level of trust and cooperation that the United States and Mexico have rarely achieved.

In theory, the U.S. and Mexico should be as thick as thieves. There are approximately 11.7 million Mexican-born immigrants currently residing in the United States. In case you’re keeping score, that is 29 percent of America’s entire immigrant population and 4 percent of its population overall. Roughly twice as many native-born Americans identify as being of Mexican origin, which means that there are about as many Mexican-Americans in the United States as there are African-Americans. Of course, this Mexicanization of America hasn’t been embraced by everyone, for reasons good and bad. And Mexico’s government has, in defending the rights of its migrants—including its many unauthorized migrants—taken an at times adversarial stance toward the United States.

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Lifetime Didn’t Find the Steubenville Rape Case Dramatic Enough. So They Added a Little Self-Immolation.

Why Men Can Never Remember Anything

The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Why Men Can Never Remember Anything
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 5:19 PM Washington’s Acting Roles
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 3:24 PM Why Innovators Hate MBAs
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.