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Mexican border agency accused of aiding illegal immigration

July 30, 2016  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Mexican border agency accused of aiding illegal immigration

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Grupo Beta is a humanitarian organization south of the border that guides U.S.-bound migrants through the crossfire of battling drug cartels. However, in Texas, many view it as a portion of a pipeline that transports both humans and drugs into the U.S., all with the funding and support of the Mexican government.

The organization, which is backed by Mexico’s National Institute of Migration, may be the only bastion of aid for migrants in the state of Tamaulipas. The agency was founded 25-years ago to help Tijuana deal with the significant amount of migrants passing through but has since expanded its reach across the northern and southern borders of Mexico.

According to Fox News, critics claim that the agency, whose slogan is “vocation, humanitarianism, and loyalty,” is complicit in violating U.S. regulations.

In a statement, Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, said: “I’ve seen so much crazy stuff out here … Grupo Beta was formed with good intention, but there have been members of the organization caught smuggling.”

Three-quarters of Central American migrants heading to the United States pass through Tamaulipas, according to Luis Carlos Cano, a spokesman for Grupo Beta. The path goes alongside the infamous rail line, referred to as “La Bestia,” which routinely travels northward packed with migrants inside. The trip is even more dangerous due to the continuing indiscriminate turf war between the Los Zetas and Gulf cartels, which most recently resulted in the killing of 14 in July in Ciudad Victoria. Grupo Beta renders medical care, food, and essentials for those in need and in transit.

Advocates of Grupo Beta recognize its flawed history, but say in the current situation of mass migration; it serves a crucial purpose.

Victor Manjarrez, Center for Law & Human Behavior at the University of Texas at El Paso and a former U.S. Border Patrol chief, stated: “There was a time early in the organization’s development that they appeared to facilitate the smuggling of humans and drugs, I don’t think that is the case now with the exception of a few rogue instances.”

When the organization was first formed in Tijuana, Grupo Beta deputies carried firearms and had the equivalent of law enforcement authority, however, it was later dismantled by the Mexican government.

Moran said, “They lost whatever backing they had so now they have no incentive to contact law enforcement if they come across smugglers because of how powerful the cartels are.” He also noted that he understands agents who hesitate to get implicated in possible illegal or violent matters when they do not have any security.

Cano stated that regardless of whether someone is a human or drug trafficker, they will receive medical care if needed from Grupo Beta and they will not be reported to Mexican authorities.

“We provide the assistance and warn them, but then allow them to be on their way. We don’t ask questions or judge, we just provide care,” said Cano.

The danger stemming from drug cartels has continued to escalate in recent. Back in 2010, 72 Central and South American migrants were massacred by members of the Los Zetas cartel in the San Fernando, Tamaulipas massacre. Grupo Beta works to guide migrants to travel safely through Mexico.

According to statistics released by the U.S. Border Patrol, there is no evidence that the influx of migrants, especially unaccompanied children, will decrease.

U.S. Border Patrol states that between October and May 2015, there were 13,239 unaccompanied minors caught just in the Rio Grande Valley Area. That number substantially increased to 23,243 over the same period this year.

Mexican authorities have observed an increase of more than 50% in the number of migrants found in crisis since the beginning of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015.

The consequence of this rise in migration through Mexico is a mixed blessing. Local economies have been thriving as merchants sell supplies to migrants and human traffickers, also known as “coyotes.” Mexico has little financial incentive to tighten its border, with more than $40 billion coming back into its economy each year from drug transactions, payments sent back to relatives from individuals in the United States, and money spent by migrants as they travel through Mexico.

Once South and Central American migrants enter the country, the issue is managed by Grupo Beta, which seeks to ensure the migrants’ safe passage. Attempts have been made by the Mexican government to regulate the flow of migrants entering its southern border, which has had little success. Once migrants make travel north toward the U.S. border, Grupo Beta is available to provide assistance. They are not affiliated with Mexico’s border patrol, who are technically supposed to deport the migrants back to Central America.

Despite efforts to control immigration, both the U.S. and Mexico recognize that they must also provide humanitarian assistance, such as water stations, medical care, and shelter when emergencies come about.

On the American side of the border, the U.S. Border Patrol has a unique search and rescue team, also known as BORTSAR (Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue), whose mission is to protect lost, ill, or injured migrants.

In just one week from June 13th-June 20th of this year, Laredo Sector Border Patrol alone saved 87 illegal migrants.

In a press release, Mario Martinez, chief patrol agent of the Laredo Sector Border Patrol, said, “The smugglers will leave these immigrants to die…Temperatures will only get hotter, and they have to understand that it is a dangerous trek to enter this country illegally.”

The Border Safety Initiative of 1998 urges the U.S. Border Patrol to increase rescues of illegal immigrants who come under attack by “callous, unscrupulous human smugglers who place them in dangerous situations to fend for themselves with the proviso that these individuals will be processed upon apprehension.”

Moran stated that the Border Patrol’s support of Donald Trump for president comes mainly from the depth of his commitment to guard the border and slow down the flow of drugs and migrants coming into the U.S..

“Mexico does what it wants when it wants. Maybe that will change,” Moran added.

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