Border Report: Mexico's Massive Election, at a Glance

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Border Report: Mexico's Massive Election, at a Glance

President Joe Biden is quietly making some big changes at the border, San Diego County is considering a plan to create an office for immigrant affairs and more in our biweekly roundup of border news.

The Mexican flag flies over Tijuana, near the U.S.-Mexico border. / Image via Shutterstock

The biggest election in Mexico’s history – in terms of the total number of open seats – took place Sunday.

Every seat in Mexico’s lower house of congress was up for grabs, as were half of the country’s governorships, and thousands of mayoral and local legislative offices.

These elections have also been among the deadliest, with 88 politicians and candidates murdered since September. Most of the victims ran on anti-corruption and anti-crime platforms.

Reuters’ Lizbeth Diaz explained how this election’s political violence underlines President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s difficulty in containing the country’s violence.

Locally, the most controversial race has been the one to replace Jaime Bonilla as governor of Baja California.

The three most recognized candidates are Jorge Hank Rhon, Jupita Jones and Marina de Pilar Aviles Olmeda.

Aviles Olmeda is the mayor of Mexicali and the MORENA candidate, the party formed by Lopez Obrador.

Hank is the former mayor of Tijuana, owner of the Tijuana Xolos soccer team and a gambling magnate. Bonilla once called Hank “the most corrupt person in Baja California.”

Hank has been caught trying to cross the border with an endangered white tiger. The Mexican military seized 88 illegal firearms in his compound and his former bodyguard was convicted of murdering a journalist in Tijuana.

Jones is a former Miss Universe who is running on an multi-party alliance made up of Mexico’s political establishment that includes the PRI, PAN and PRD parties.

She made headlines last week by accusing Hank’s team of offering her $5 million to drop out of the race – an allegation Hank denied.

Preliminary results show Aviles Olmeda leading the race.

Mexico’s midterm elections are largely seen as a referendum on Lopez Obrador and his MORENA party. The president is popular domestically, with an approval rating around 57 percent.

But he has come under criticism for his handling of the pandemic and a rising crime rate.

Zeta’s Eduardo Villa reported that several ballot boxes were stolen in Mexicali Sunday. Separate groups of men drove around the city stealing ballot boxes in an attempt to stop people from voting.

Biden’s Big (and Quiet) Border Changes

Last week, two controversial initiatives the Biden administration has been quietly implemented along the border were exposed.

First, the Los Angeles Times’ Molly O’Toole revealed the use of a surveillance app that uses facial recognition and geolocation data to track asylum-seekers in Mexico.

The federal government defended use of this technology by saying it cannot process all of the asylum-seekers sent back into Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols and Title 42 policies, which President Donald Trump created and President Joe Biden kept in place after being elected.

Critics say the app raises serious privacy concerns for extremely vulnerable migrants who have little choice but to consent.

Surveillance technologies and the San Diego border have a checkered history. In 2019, NBC San Diego reported Customs and Border Protection officials were tracking lawyers, immigration advocates and journalists through a secret database.

Chula Vista has also come under scrutiny for unknowingly sharing license plate reader data with Immigration and Customs Enforcement for three years. It has since stopped.

Biden’s second quiet move was to task six private organizations with recommending which migrants should be allowed to pursue asylum in the United States.

Only one of the six groups have been publicly identified. The others, according to the AP, include one London-based nonprofit, two U.S.-based nonprofit, and two Mexico-based organizations.

Some of these groups are reportedly worried that their short-staffed offices in Mexico will be overwhelmed by asylum seekers.

There are 800 asylum seekers in Mexico and the Biden administration has not said what criteria these groups will use to determine which migrants are the most vulnerable.

Critics of the program say it is wrong for the federal government to put private groups in a position to essentially rank misery and decide who should be able to request asylum in the U.S.

Recommended Reading

  • The San Diego County Board of Supervisors is considering a proposal to create an Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. The office could serve as a hub for issues related to immigrant populations living in the county, VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan reports.
  • A family of Honduran asylum-seekers was finally allowed into San Diego after spending a year and a half in Mexico. They described the living conditions for migrants in Tijuana and provided first-hand insight into what the federal government (both under Trump and Biden) exposed asylum-seekers to through the Migrant Protection Protocols and Title 42 policies. (KPBS)
  • The San Diego Union-Tribune dug into the life of a migrant woman who drowned off Point Loma while trying to enter the United States illegally.
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