On July 12, 2022, the meeting between Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and U.S. President Joseph Biden resulted in a joint statement, containing some promises of cross-border law enforcement cooperation.
Drug Trafficking, Arms Trafficking, Human Smuggling, and Transnational Criminal Organizations
Through the Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health, and Safe Communities, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate to address major security issues affecting the two nations, including the challenges of fentanyl, arms trafficking, and human smuggling, and to reduce levels of drug abuse and addiction.
They committed to deepen their cooperation to combat transnational criminal organizations. They reaffirmed the robust operational efforts between law enforcement agencies to address these security efforts. They pledged to establish a U.S.-Mexico operational task force to disrupt the flow of fentanyl into their countries.
The two leaders referred to the tragic deaths of 51 migrants on June 27 at the hands of human smugglers in San Antonio. The incident further strengthens their “determination to go after the multi-billion-dollar criminal smuggling industry preying on migrants and increase our efforts to address the root causes of migration.” The Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security (DHS) and Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office have coordinated to arrest and prosecute those who endanger the lives of vulnerable migrants.” In doing so, they will, among other things, work through Joint Task Force Alpha and its Mexican partners.
Joint Task Force Alpha is a law enforcement task force. It will marshal the investigative and prosecutorial resources of the DOJ, in partnership with the DHS, to enhance U.S. enforcement efforts against the most prolific and dangerous human smuggling and trafficking groups operating in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.
The Joint Task Force is composed of federal prosecutors from U.S. Attorney’s Offices along the Southwest Border (District of Arizona, Southern District of California, Southern District of Texas, and Western District of Texas), from the Criminal Division and the Civil Rights Division. Also participating are law enforcement agents and analysts from DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Patrol. The FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration are also part of the Task Force. It works closely with Operation Sentinel, a recently announced DHS operation focused on countering transnational criminal organizations affiliated with migrant smuggling.
The two leaders pledged to build on the commitments at the Summit of the Americas made by twenty-one countries in the hemisphere pursuant to the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, they said they are taking immediate and coordinated steps to manage the flows of migrants arriving into their countries. They have joined efforts to address the underlying economic and security drivers of migration. Recognizing that development must be at the center of all migration policies, they will accelerate and expand international cooperation programs focused on the most marginalized communities. At the same time, they will maintain strong border enforcement policies while ensuring full protection of human rights.
Perhaps the most concrete development is pledged to establish a U.S.-Mexico operational task force to disrupt the flow of fentanyl. Some of the ingredients tend to originate in China and are brought into Mexico, where they are further processed for export to the U.S.
The most difficult pledge is to have strong border enforcement policies while ensuring full protection of human rights. The U.S. border situation suffers from the failure of the U.S. Congress to enact modernize legislation, the lack of resources at the border to process the number of aliens, the failure to invest in resources to adjudicate the number of asylum applicants, policies of U.S. state governments which sometimes do not complement and even work at cross-purposes with U.S. immigration and human rights policies, and the lack of consistent border and immigration policies when administrations change.
A limitation of the Los Angels Declaration on Migration and Protection is that some of the most countries that are the sources (e.g., Cuba) and intermediary locations (e.g., Nicaragua) have not joined the Declaration.
The Bicentennial Framework provides at least a detailed framework for cross-border enforcement cooperation between the two countries. In addition, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement has strengthened enforcement provisions, especially for labor and the environment. Those provisions also enable the two governments and other stakeholders to ensure enforcement cooperation occurs with respect to the issues covered in the agreement. These provisions also extend to intellectual property enforcement.