Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto is meeting with US secretary of state Rex Tillerson and US Homeland Security chief John Kelly on Feb. 22 to talk about increasingly uncomfortable relations between the two countries.
One point Peña Nieto is sure to bring up is Mexico’s role in buffering the US from undocumented immigrants. The country has become a de facto enforcer of US immigration policy by intercepting northbound travelers before they make it past the Rio Grande.
The number of immigrants detained and deported by Mexican authorities jumped in 2014 after the Obama administration enlisted Mexico to help with a surge of women and children fleeing from Central America. The pace slowed down somewhat last year, but it’s still well above the historical norm.
Were it not for Mexico’s stepped-up patrolling efforts, which have earned government authorities harsh criticism from human rights advocates, the number of immigrants entering the US illegally would be much higher.
That service comes at a relatively small cost to the US. Under the Mérida Initiative, a binational partnership to combat crime and strengthen Mexico’s borders, the US has shipped $1.6 billion in aid to Mexico. It looks like a good deal compared to the $20-billion-plus price tag of US president Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.