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Redirecting Critical Federal Resources to Enact a Strategy of Cruelty



The Trump administration has taken radical actions to limit asylum and build a wall at the southern border in flagrant disregard of the rights of migrants, border communities and the environment, as well as the legal implications of seizing private and tribal land.


To accomplish this, the administration has redirected critical resources towards wall construction and the implementation of programs like Remain in Mexico, which dangerously traps migrants in Mexico while they navigate a difficult and broken asylum system. Resources are shifted towards criminalizing migration and away from programs that could make a meaningful and compassionate difference, such as sending aid to Central American countries and improving conditions in holding facilities at the border. 


The following is a summary of actions taken in 2019 to redirect critical federal resources to enact this strategy of cruelty.


  • January: Remain in Mexico is rolled out in San Diego and Tijuana, later expanding to Calexico/Mexicali, El Paso/Juárez, Brownsville/Matamoros and Laredo/Nuevo Laredo. Since then, immigration courts along the border (such as those in El Paso and Juárez) have become overburdened.


  • June: The Trump administration announces plans to cut foreign aid to Central American countries. Foreign aid to Central America is directed to improve security, alleviate poverty, strengthen judicial systems and implement resilience programs to address violence and climate change. $370 million was completely suspended and $185 million withheld until the US government certifies that Central American countries have taken sufficient steps to curb migration. $432 million allocated for previously approved projects remains in place. 


  • July: The Defense Department announces the deployment of 2,100 troops to the border, adding to the more than 4,500 already stationed here. The military is prohibited from carrying out domestic law enforcement activities, but troops are deployed in support roles at ports of entry and in detention facilities.


  • August: The Trump administration announces plans to redirect $271 million in disaster relief funds towards border enforcement. $116 million will be used to pay for new detention beds and $155 for the construction of Remain in Mexico immigration court tents along the southern border. The decision was announced during peak hurricane season and a week before a devastating storm hit the Bahamas and North Carolina.


  • September: The Defense Department announces plans to cancel $3.6 billion in military construction projects in order to construct 175 miles of the border wall. 127 projects that were in progress across the country are halted.


Mexico has also redirected major resources to collaborate with the Trump administration after threats to impose tariffs on Mexico in June. Mexico agreed to a series of actions intended to harden the border and impede the passage of mostly Central American asylum seekers.


  • One of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s first actions in office was the creation of a new security force, the Guardia Nacional, to combat soaring rates of crime and deadly violence in Mexico. To date, more than one-third of the force (about 25,000 soldiers) has been deployed to Mexico’s northern and southern borders and throughout the country to assist with immigration enforcement. The Guardia Nacional is an untested security force and it unclear whether soldiers have been adequately trained in human rights and in dealing with vulnerable migrant populations.


  • A recent massacre in the Mexican state of Veracruz highlights the government’s failure to address the needs of its own people while capitulating to the United States’ cruel focus on deterring Central American migrants. On the night of August 27, 27 people were killed in an attack at a nightclub in Coatzacoalcos, a city that has seen heightened levels of violence from the breakup of factions within the Zetas cartel. Veracruz’ state police force is 61% smaller than it should be. The state was slated to receive a deployment of 7,200 National Guard troops, but many of those troops have instead been deployed to assist with immigration enforcement. Mexico’s history shows that the deployment of troops infrequently translates to peace and security for communities, but it is clear that the redirection of resources to border enforcement has not helped the problem. 


  • Mexico is busing asylum seekers in the Remain in Mexico program to southern states like Chiapas and constructing shelters in northern border cities to process and house asylum seekers at significant cost.


While resources exist to address urgent domestic needs in the US and to treat immigrants and asylum seekers with dignity and compassion, the Trump administration has redirected critical appropriations towards wall construction, the implementation of the Remain in Mexico program and the deployment of troops to the border.


Ultimately, any radical actions taken to redistribute tax-payer dollars without Congressional authorization should be stopped immediately. 


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