IN 13 MONTHS, THE US COLLECTED DATA ON 30,000 IMMIGRANTS IN MEXICO
By: Fabiola Martínez, Andrea Becerril, Georgina Saldierna and Jaime Hernández
México maintains an agreement with the United States derived from the Merida Plan  that has permitted collecting data on more than 30,000 Central American immigrants in national detention centers in the past 13 months, authorities of the National Immigration Institute (INM, its initials in Spanish) admitted.
The federal body insisted that it is an ordinary practice, underway for a “long time,” within the context of the bilateral cooperation schemes in security matters, since the delivery of biometric data to officials of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was designed in 2012, in the context of the aforementioned plan, signed in June 2008 with the government of George W. Bush.
After the Washington Post published news, citing anonymous sources in the Donald Trump administration, that in the past 13 months the DHS collected fingerprints, iris scans, tattoos and scars from 30,000 people detained in Mexican immigration centers in Tapachula, Chiapas, and in Iztapalapa, in Mexico City, senators and party leaders demanded clarification of this process.
The Senate should demand information from the Foreign Ministry and the Secretariat of Governance (SG) about what the Washington Post published, since it will corroborate that the Mexican government “does the dirty work” for the United States, by creating a record for criminal purposes (“fichar”) of the Central American immigrants that cross through Mexican territory, the President of the Migratory Issues Commission, Layda Sansores, and the Vice Coordinator from the PT-Morena, Zoé Robledo warned.
Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the PRD, Ángel Ávila, demanded that the Senate call the Secretaries of Governance and Foreign Relations to testify, as well as the head of the INM, to know if, in effect, a secret protocol is being applied that implies violations of the human rights of the immigrants.
Monitoring of the undocumented
Different newspapers in the United States re-published the note in the Post in which it was revealed that DHS agents had “unprecedented access” to the immigration detention centers in Mexico, and even would be thinking about expanding the program to Tijuana and Mexicali, in Baja California, and to Reynosa, in Tamaulipas, for the purpose of “monitoring every migrant in custody in Mexico.”
The newspaper points out that the Mexican government has kept the program secret to avoid criticism from those who distrust US surveillance systems.
In that regard, the INM responded, in an information card, that the use of biometric data platforms (which include fingerprint, iris and face images, among others) is a “basic input, necessary in the migratory management of Mexico and in different countries of the world.” It assured that the protection of personal data is guaranteed in this process.
It added that as an assisting organism in public and national security matters it has the ability to carry out consultations with other nations, a “situation that takes place with authorities of countries in North America, Central America, South America and Europe, always respecting national legislation.”
With the Merida Plan, financed by the US government, a program of cooperation and exchange of information was started that permits the United States authorities to know about the presence of criminals and possible terrorists among migrants in custody in Mexico, an agreement that does not affect Mexican citizens, the Washington Post indicated.
The data collected, according to the daily newspaper, is shared with DHS and other police agencies in Washington, therefore that country’s authorities see the immigration-tracking program as a “model” that can be implemented in other countries of the region, and they would even be negotiating with Central American nations.
“It treats them like criminals”
In separate interviews, the senators agreed that it’s serious that besides the violation of human rights that Salvadorans, Hondurans and citizens of other Central American nations suffer, who cross through Mexican territory with the intention of reaching the United States, now it treats them like potential criminals.
Senator Robledo, the Senate Representative to the Central American Parliament, stressed that the immigration stations that operate in Mexico are true prisons, in which migrants are kept as virtual prisoners before deporting them, “with the aggravating circumstance that, according to what the Post published, US agents take biometric records from them and all the information that the Trump government uses to detect terrorists and other criminals.”
Senator Sansores warned that what the Washington Post published is not strange, since the government of Enrique Peña Nieto has allowed US agents to operate in the country and violate the human rights of Central American migrants and treat them as if they were criminals for whom they must create a record.
Meanwhile, sources consulted at the SG and the INM considered that the newspaper gave relevance to an ordinary fact, starting with “leaked information” in the United States.
The exchange of information, an official added, “has always taken place. For example, in order to operate the Trusted Traveler program (a review of files of those who frequently cross the common border) has been applied since the start of the present administration, with due safeguarding of personal data.”
Reports from the SG indicate that in 2017 95, 497 foreigners were presented to the INM, of which 81, 999 came from Central America. In the first two months of 2018, there were 20, 943 migrants presented, the majority Central Americans.
 The Mérida Plan is also known as the Mérida Initiative. It is a security cooperation agreement and was agreed to between presidents George W. Bush and Felipe Calderón in 2007 to secure NAFTA; in other words, it’s a plan to secure US corporations operating in Mexico. In 2014, Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, announced the Southern Border Program (SBP) for immigration enforcement against Central Americans and others on Mexico’s southern border. The following articles have been posted on this blog and in monthly news summaries since that time. For more info about this, see:
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Sunday, April 8, 2018
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee