Mexico prepares for possibility of mass deportations from US

Mexico is starting to prepare for the possibility that millions of its migrants could be deported.

Cars in queues at of San Ysidro border checkpoints to Mexico. Picture: Channel 5

Under proposals put forward by President-elect Donald Trump, Mexico could see millions of people streaming back with no jobs available; the country might lose some of the billions of dollars in remittances sent home annually; and some jobless deportees could swell the ranks of drug cartels, sparking more violence.

Gov. Hector Astudillo of the southern state of Guerrero considered the possible scenario over the weekend. At least a million Guerrero residents live in the United States, many without proper documents, and the state is already reeling from drug gang violence and poverty.

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“Of course Guerrero is not in any condition to receive the million or more than one million migrants” in the U.S., Astudillo said. “On the contrary, they have been an important mainstay in supporting the economy of Guerrero.”

Migrants sent home almost $25 billion in remittances to Mexico in 2015, and experts say most of that went to support the most basic needs of the poorest Mexicans. Trump has suggested he might somehow seize the funds of those immigrants who are not deported to pay for a border wall.

The federal government announced an emergency program this week aimed at encouraging business to hire returning migrants, but Mexico City teacher Armando Osorio doubted that would be enough.

“These people have no moral authority to say they will receive their countrymen with open arms,” he said. “They are the ones who are mainly responsible for the forced exodus of millions of Mexicans who don’t have enough to eat.”

Even if Trump seems to be walking back the idea of mass deportations, the prospect still remains frightening for people in Mexico.

On Sunday, Trump said in an interview on the news program “60 Minutes” that “what we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, a lot of these people - probably two million, it could be three million - and getting them out of our country.”

The U.S. government in 2012 estimated about 1.9 million immigrants were criminals and could face deportation. The Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, estimated 820,000 of those are in the United States illegally.

While millions of migrants in the United States illegally could ultimately face deportation, the process to find and deport all of them likely won’t happen rapidly.

Once in office, Trump could move to have immigration agents quickly start arresting people already under orders to leave for being in the U.S. illegally. There were about 88,000 people in that category as of 2015.

But for immigrants with no criminal history, the wait for a judge’s final deportation order could take years. There are about 521,000 cases pending in federal immigration courts currently, according to public data obtained by Transaction Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

Even in Mexico, many believe Trump will have to moderate his plans.

“Political reality will make it clear that many of the proposals against Mexicans are simply not feasible, neither the deportation of all undocumented migrants, nor the construction of the wall,” the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico City wrote in an editorial.