In the months following President Joe Biden’s reversals of his predecessor’s border enforcement policies, there has been a new crush of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Most who cross illegally into the U.S. are being briefly detained and then returned, but a significant portion — especially unaccompanied minors — are being released into the interior to await asylum hearings that are scheduled years into the future, a phenomenon that is likely leading thousands of others to make the journey north.
However, as more come, more are falling prey: To cartels, most likely, as an increasing number of migrant families report that relatives who set out for the United States have turned up missing.
Some, The Associated Press reports, have vanished without a trace along a stretch of highway that local media call “the highway of death.”
The AP reports that in recent days, up to 50 people were reported missing this year alone after beginning a three-hour vehicle trip between the industrial city of Monterrey and the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo.
“The disappearances, and last week’s shooting of 15 apparently innocent bystanders in Reynosa, suggest Mexico is returning to the dark days of the 2006-2012 drug war when cartel gunmen often targeted the general public as well as one another,” the AP reports.
“It’s no longer between the cartels; they are attacking the public,” local activist Angelica Orozco, with United Forces for Our Disappeared, told the newswire.
Up to a half-dozen of those who have been reported missing are thought to be U.S. citizens or residents of the United States, but the U.S. Embassy in Mexico would not confirm their status to the AP. José de Jesús Gómez, from Irving, Texas, was reported missing along the highway earlier this month.
Most of the people missing appear to have met their fate as they approached Nuevo Laredo, which is directly across the border from Laredo, Texas. The Mexican side is largely controlled by cartels, and about six men who have since turned up, but beaten badly, could only say that men with guns forced them to surrender their vehicles along the highway.
Orozco said conditions and disappearances are beginning to resemble the bad old days of Mexico’s war on the drug cartels, which left tens of thousands of people dead each year and had little-to-no impact on the power of the cartels overall.
She recounted one incident in 2011 when armed cartel members from the Mexican state of Tamaulipas removed civilians off a bus and forced them to fight each other to the death using sledgehammers, the AP added.
She also said that authorities, then and now, do not have many answers for bereaved families.
“Now, more than 10 years after the disappearances in 2010 and 2011, they cannot continue to use the same pretexts,” Orozco told the AP. However, she added, “they’re using the same lines. … In the last decade, they were supposed to have created institutions and procedures, but it’s the same old story of authorities doing nothing.”
In an interview Friday with Fox News’s Will Cain, former senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller blamed the situation squarely on the Biden administration, especially regarding the reversal of former President Donald Trump’s child repatriation policy back to their families in their home countries.
“They made a conscious, deliberate decision to end the repatriation policy, and instead, they have long-term housing followed by release to unknown sponsors, in many cases inside the United States,” Miller said of the Biden administration.
“I want to be very clear about something: This is not a case of Harris and Biden trying but failing to secure the border,” the former top adviser said. “This is a case of Biden and Harris trying and succeeding in destroying the border. Only if you understand that can you understand everything else that is going on.”
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