Migration is currently on the forefront of nearly every global leader’s mind. It was a topic President Trump promised to be tough on during his campaign, and since his election, it has caused a strain on the United States-Mexico relationship. The U.S. is one of many countries facing an influx of immigrants and refugees knocking on its door hoping to escape the conflict and war in their home countries.
Countries are addressing migration at a domestic level through varying means, the most popular of which appears to be nationalist policies that leave migrants uncertain of their future. Progress is indeed being made on an international level in an attempt to normalize how the world manages migration. In December, (GCM) will be ratified by all 193 UN member nations, minus the United States, displaying the ability to “[overcome] ‘mistrust’ and ‘difficult’ issues to draw up the first-ever migration pact.”
In the U.S., there is a growing negative rhetoric towards immigrants, particularly from Mexico, that has its roots in President Trump’s 2016 ‘America First’ campaign. Now, a year and a half into his tenure, Trump has been struggling to get a win in regards to immigration: he cannot obtain his desired funding from Congress for his wall (that he claimed during his campaign Mexico would pay for) and he implemented a controversial policy that separated thousands of children from their parents. He needs a break, and with the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, also known as AMLO, he may have just received it.
In Mexico, citizens are fed up with the status quo. President Enrique Peña Nieto has been unsuccessful in improving issues such as a low GDP, poor wages, violence, and corruption during his tenure. What made AMLO stand out in the 2018 elections is, unlike the other candidates, he recognized the current system is not working and as a result is leaving people behind. He ran on a platform that encouraged bottom-up growth starting with the poor, and foreign policy that entails mutual respect between Mexico and the United States. His new approach to Mexican politics caused Mexico to experience the largest voter turnout in recent history, signaling that they are ready for change.
AMLO’s bottom up view of tackling economic growth and violence and corruption in Mexico is what appealed most to Mexicans. By changing the status quo for the lower class, creating more job opportunities and job training, increasing wages along the border, and providing more scholarships for youth, he will prompt change in two key areas. First, violence and corruption. With more opportunities for youth, they will be less likely to get involved with the cartels. The population is already becoming more organized and with improved social policies, they will continue to expect more transparency from the government. Second, economic opportunity. AMLO’s proposed policy changes will encourage more youth to reach for higher education and increase job opportunities. With a stronger working force, Mexico will become more attractive for international investment, fueling increased economic growth.
If López Obrador’s domestic agenda proves successful, there will be ripple effects on immigration. When combined, the improvement of the previous two points -violence and corruption and economic opportunity- will actually compliment Donald Trump’s immigration goals. Contradictory to the beliefs of the U.S. president, immigration is driven by need. When violence is present and economic opportunities are absent, a sustainable life remains unachievable. But when these issues are addressed, immigration will decrease. Through improving domestic conditions for Mexicans, it is AMLO’s hope “that Mexicans can work and be happy where they were born, where their family is, where their customs and their cultures are." If United States were to agree to the GMC, they would have the ability to combat domestic issues in Mexico at the same time. The agreement outlines provisions for timely and proper education for migrants and refugees. In addition, it aims to increase migrants’ “.” These provisions equip migrants with the necessary skills to contribute to economic and social growth in the area in which they are living temporarily, but they will also take those skills back home. Their friends, neighbors, and family can then learn from them, increasing their contribution to domestic conditions from the bottom, up.
AMLO was extremely critical of Trump on his campaign trail and expects a U.S.-Mexico relationship based on mutual respect. Trump sent out a tweet congratulating AMLO after the election, showing signs of hope that this is a real possibility. Despite having ideologically opposite views, the two leaders share a common goal: decrease Mexican immigration to the U.S. AMLO has shown that he will be acting in the best interest of the average Mexican and will not tolerate exploitation. This puts him in a good spot to negotiate with Trump. If AMLO can show Trump that he is working on making the social and economic conditions in Mexico favorable for Mexicans to stay and live, then he will be in a position to ask the U.S. leader for something in return. Urging the U.S. to join the rest of the UN members in ratifying the DCM would seem like a reasonable ask for both sides. In which case, AMLO can ensure that Mexicans who continue to make the dangerous trek to the U.S. are treated fairly, and that their rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are respected. The agreement would not only warrant the prevention of human rights abuses to migrants, but would also provide support, additional resources, and multilateral funding to the host country, a factor that should be appealing to the U.S.
December 2018 will be a telling month for immigration. UNA-NCA President, Stephen F. Moseley said in a last week that “UNA-NCA gives special emphasis to the values of human rights for all, especially as we approach the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10th, 2018.” On that special day, the GCM will be in Morocco. When this occurs, AMLO will be in the middle of his second week as the President of Mexico, as he takes power on December 1st. December 10th will also be the one year and one week mark of the U.S. resigning from GCM discussions. There is a lot to come in December, while the U.S. unfortunately remains on the sidelines once again. If in fact AMLO is the answer to improving livelihood in Mexico, he has the potential to decrease immigration to the U.S. and urge Trump to engage in the global effort laid out in the GCM, we can only wait and see.