Presidents of Mexico, El Salvador unveil program aimed at keeping migrants home

World Today

The United States has been pressing Mexico to do more to stop migrants before they reach the U.S. border.

The presidents of Mexico and El Salvador are unveiling a plan to encourage people to stay home by creating more agricultural jobs in Central America.

They announced the deal during a meeting near Mexico’s border with Guatemala.

CGTN’s Franc Contreras reports, from Tapachula, Mexico.

The presidents of Mexico and El Salvador met in this government-run greenhouse on the Mexican side of the border with Guatemala. Among the topics they discussed was an effort to create agricultural jobs in Central America. They call it “Sowing Life: Development Plan for Migration.”  It would put thousands of people in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to work planting trees.

“With this program, they are improving the environment while also creating jobs, so that people, especially young people, won’t need to go in search of a life in other parts of the world,”  Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said.

“We will set an example just like Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said: it is a light that will illuminate a large part of the world because we are setting an example here – an example not only for Mexico but one that the whole world needs,”  President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador said.

The jobs creation project aims to curb one of the main causes of immigration in the region – a lack of decent paying work. Unemployment or underemployment has produced widespread poverty in Central America.

The plan comes just as Mexico is cracking down on undocumented immigration from Central America. The Trump administration threatens to impose tariffs on all Mexican products going to the United States if Mexico does not reduce the flow of migrants at the U.S. border.

But the Mexican efforts to decrease immigration are also hurting some jobs here along the river that marks the border between Mexico and Guatemala. Few Guatemalans are now allowed to cross over to Mexico to buy merchandise to sell in Guatemala. The crackdown is harming the personal economies of thousands of families who provide crossing services here in this border area.

Mexican taxi driver Joel Barrios says he has lost 60 percent of his income over the last month due to his own government’s efforts to stop immigrants.

“The owners of rafts, taxis and small bus services — we are all negatively affected,” Barrios said. “I do not know what will happen now. They might just close down this part of the border.”

This situation proves just how complex it is to end poverty and keep people employed in a part of the world where inequality still runs high.