12.30-1.30pm, 12 April 2017 Building 67, Room 202, University of Wollongong
The image of Weimar Germany as a ‘crisis culture’ has long-since taken root in the popular historical consciousness. Emerging from the crucible of war and revolution, and pockmarked by erratic patterns of cultural experimentation, economic turmoil and political flux, Germany’s first republic is frequently styled as a single prolonged moment of trauma and transformation that enveloped social life. The perception of crisis was widespread among contemporaries and found resonance not only in cultural media but also across the disciplines of economics, history, philosophy and medicine. In law, too, it was similarly pervasive – while socialists and liberals denounced the politically-driven practices of the courts, giving rise to what was publicly referred to as a ‘crisis of confidence in the judiciary’, legal theorists debated the ‘crisis of law’ that attended the radical transition to constitutional-social democracy.
Scholarship on such issues has to date tended to privilege disputes between legal luminaries and high- profile politicians, or to focus on discussions in the journalistic press. Yet the cultural texts of the era – literature, theatre, art, film – are also remarkable for the wealth and variety of their depictions of legal concerns. More than mere representations, these texts invite analysis as a form of popular jurisprudence that fosters new opportunities for productive negotiations of the contemporary crisis of law and justice outside the parameters of legal procedure, politics and academia. The aim here will be to survey the contours of this cultural discourse via analysis of a series of exemplary narratives that not only put the institutions of law and order in Germany on trial, but which also circulate back into the popular imagination as a point of reference for thinking about the stakes of law and crime.
Dr Steven Howe is a Senior Teaching & Research Fellow at the University of Lucerne in Switzerland. He is also a Visiting Research Fellow with the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra.
For more information and to register your attendance, please visit the LIRC website.
12.30-1.30pm, 15 March 2017, Building 67, Room 202, University of Wollongong
This paper reviews shifts and trends in feminist legal theory since the 1980s and is based on a work in progress. By 1990, the field of feminist legal theory was well established but it also was undergoing numerous challenges. An appreciation of the complexity of women’s inequality and the intersecting nature of oppressions, along with the influence of poststructuralism, prompted the trend away from universalizing theories focused on gender and law or “the state”. Less publication space is now devoted to works exploring more abstract questions about feminist legal theory per se than was true in the 1980s and the 1990s, as grand theories about the sources of, and remedies for, women’s oppression were challenged, fragmented, and sometimes dismantled. That said, the insights of feminist legal theory continue to be relevant, even if less space is devoted to overarching questions such as the roots of inequality. Moreover, feminist legal thought often takes the form of praxis or “applied” theory because it uses theory to critically assess practical areas of activity or law reform. Even as feminists have subjected new fields of law to critical analysis, many topics of long standing interest to feminism continue to sustain interest. This retrospective offers examples from the author’s own work as well as the journal Social & Legal Studies and focuses on themes such as Strategic Engagement, Intersectionality, Women or Gender, and Choice and Constraint. Recent calls for a return to a focus on socialist or materialist feminism and the nature of the state are assessed.
Susan B. Boyd is Professor Emerita at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She is also a Visiting Professorial Fellow with the Legal Intersections Research Centre at the University of Wollongong.
For more information and to register your attendance, please visit the LIRC website or see the Events page.
Legal Biographies, as constituted through this project, considers the way in which the legal self is shaped, and how, in turn, that self becomes responsible for law. The editors have coined a new term – jurisography – to comprehend an expanded jurisprudence that is shaped beyond the limits of ‘jurist, judge and jurisprudent’ to also consider the ‘fragmentary sources and forms of jurisprudence that people live with everyday’ that constitutes this form of biography. The jurisographer engages in the ‘studied acknowledgment of the relational duties of the writer and the jurisprudent, and the experiences of a life lived with law’ (p2).
The next issue of Law Text Culture Volume 21 (2017) is being edited by Professor Chris Tomlins from UC Berkeley Law. Professor Tomlins is a renowned legal historian. The issue is entitled ‘“Law As …”: Minor Jurisprudence in Historical Key’ and will be available late in 2017 or early in 2018.
American and Mexican researchers have proven that Mexican immigration to the United States (US) has been hitting a historical low since 2009. Since the last years of Barack Obama’s administration, more Mexicans have been leaving the US than coming into it. Donald Trump, the President of the US, has nonetheless implemented aggressive immigration policies that could cause great harm to both Mexico and the United States. Dr Luis Gómez Romero commented on these issues on Thursday on ABC’s ‘The World’:
If you are interested in learning more about the complexities around the migratory realities and policies at the Mexican-American border, you may find the following op-ed articles by Dr Gómez Romero quite instructive:
There has been considerable reporting of the series of injunctions that had ‘stayed’ the operation of the first of these orders after it was issued on 27 January 2017 in a number of US Federal Districts. The original injunctions involved individuals affected by the order; an appellate judgment of the US Federal Ninth Circuit Court , in which the states of Washington and Minnesota (joined by more than 90 high profile businesses and a range of community based organisations and US law professors) successfully proceeded against the President . There has been no further legal action brought at the time of writing.
Other actions have now been brought in connection with Executive Order 13768, in two cases that have commenced in the US Federal District Courts in California and Boston: San Francisco v. Trump, which is currently on foot; an application by the Cities of Lawrence and Chelsea (in the Boston area) has recently been filed. The Order to build ‘Mexican Wall’, and to demand payment from Mexico to do so raises other, serious international legal concerns.
The initial administration of the Order Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States resulted in distress, confusion, and international condemnation. Border officials denied entry to those holding valid visas and US green cards, though the administration later suggested that green card holders were to be permitted entry – after further screening. Returning holiday-makers and those who had made family visits to countries of origins were denied entry and detained, and others were pulled off flights in transit countries. Families were split up, and humanitarian and medical treatment in the US was delayed. Residents – including those who had lived in the US for years and dual citizens – were among those detained, handcuffed, and their visas cancelled. The injunctions issued have temporarily stopped this happening, pending any Presidential appeal or the creation of new orders.
There has been intense interest and concern, internationally, about the orders. An Australian based centre, LIRC has a research focus on social justice and the role of the public interest in law. We note that there are often good reasons to ask questions about our systems under law, and to consider whether justice is served by law. The legally problematic nature of the orders, and their social and political consequences, are of deep concern. LIRC is concerned that the orders themselves, and the subsequent responses of the Administration, including Presidential tweets directed against judges whose decisions found against the President, represent a challenge to foundational concepts on which liberal democracies such as the US and Australia are based: the rule of law and the doctrine of the separation of powers.
It was with no hint of irony that the new US President, in a speech to the US Department of Homeland Security on 25 January 2017, said that ‘we will restore the rule of law’. Yet his words and actions since taking over the US administration just five days earlier reveal that he not only misunderstands the concept, central to the functioning of liberal democracies, but has acted contrary to its principles. Everyone, including individuals, governments, Presidents, and administrations are bound by law and what is known as the ‘principle of legality’. The rule of law is designed to limit the possibility of unbridled power resting in the hands of one individual. The apparatus of government is subject to checks and balances – that is, that no one individual is able, on their own, to have a grip on absolute power. These checks and balances, or more formally, the doctrine of the separation of powers, reside in the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
These are familiar concepts in the US, but they are also foundational, though less well understood, in the UK and in Australia. We are deeply concerned that the US President’s words and actions are subverting these principles. There is a reason that governments are required to operate under law, and that bare power – both at a domestic and international level– is resisted. Without a grounding in law rather than unbridled or unfettered power, the entire edifice and basis of liberal democracies, are threatened.
The President’s orders and memoranda do not just have local consequences, as the attempt to insist on demanding that Mexico pays for a wall to be built by the US on the border between the two countries. In the international sphere, the rule of law demands the prevention and removal of threats to peace, the suppression of acts of aggression and the peaceful solution of conflicts, as established in article 1(1) of the Charter of United Nations, and not an escalation.
The Legal Intersections Research Centre (LIRC) at the University of Wollongong (UOW) invites applications from PhD students enrolled at other universities to visit LIRC for a minimum period of two weeks in 2017.
LIRC engages in interdisciplinary scholarship across law, society and culture with a focus on public interest law and social justice. LIRC academic members come from law as well as diverse disciplines including media and cultural studies, business and forensic mental health. LIRC members’ current research relates to six themes:
Crime and Society;
Law and Popular Cultures;
Social Justice and Global Forces;
Legal Ethics, Culture, Practice and Professionalism.
The Visiting PhD Scholar Program aims to support high quality interdisciplinary PhD research in LIRC’s areas of research, to provide opportunities to PhD scholars from other universities to be involved in LIRC’s research activity and to support PhD scholars to form ongoing networks with LIRC academic and higher degree research (HDR) members.
LIRC will award one visiting PhD scholarship in 2017 up to $1500 to cover the cost of travel to Wollongong and assist with living expenses in Wollongong during the program. Visiting PhD scholars will have office space with a computer, printing and copying facilities and borrowing privileges at the UOW library. Visits in 2017 will be scheduled during August to October to maximise the opportunity for interaction with LIRC members and HDRs. Visiting PhD scholars are expected to be present on campus during the period of their visit in order to conduct their PhD research, participate in LIRC’s research activity, present their research at a lunchtime LIRC research seminar and be available for discussion of their research with LIRC academic and HDR members and UOW law honours students.
a curriculum vitae of no more than three pages, including name, previous degree/s, home institution and faculty, enrolment profile (fulltime, part-time, planned completion) supervisors, and, as applicable scholarship/s, publications and/or conference presentations, and work background;
a one page summary including the title, aims, overview, structure, chapter title, and of current status of the PhD research project;
a one page explanation of the alignment between the applicant’s PhD project and LIRC research, with reference to current research projects of one or more members of LIRC members, and how the applicant and their PhD will benefit from the visit to LIRC;
The proposed dates for the visit (between August and October 2017);
A reference, preferably from the applicant’s Principal PhD Supervisor
A few weeks before the Mexico’s 2006 election, La Familia Michoacana — among the most vicious of Mexico’s major drug cartels – tossed five severed heads onto the dance floor of the Sol y Sombra night club in Uruapan, Michoacán, along with a message outlining its strategy for targeted killings, which it called “divine justice”.
As this gruesome incident rekindled the debate on national security, candidate Felipe Calderón, who went on to win the election, made a campaign promise: to fix the country’s drug problem. Calderón would be only the second Mexican leader who did not hail from the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), which had ruled for most of the 20th century. His campaign presented him as the only honest alternative to the PRI’s corrupt legacy. “My hands are clean”, claimed his ads.
On December 11, 2006, days after taking office, Calderón launched the “Operativo Conjunto Michoacán” – Operation Michoacán – sending some 6,500 soldiers, marines and federal police to the state. Its aim, according to minister of the interior Francisco Ramírez Acuña, was to “take back” a country that had been “seized” by organised crime. He also asked Mexicans for patience, cautioning that the fight would take time.
All this was exactly ten years ago. Today, Mexico’s drug war rages on, virtually unchanged. It is time to ask: what has the decade-long cartel strategy achieved?
Another failed American war
As one must when assessing war, let’s start with the casualties. 150,000 people have died in Mexico’s drug war since 2006, and another 30,000 are missing. Many victims of this decade of murder and grief have been unheralded, but some have made the headlines: 22 civilians summarily executed by the army in Tlatlaya, 43 students who disappeared without a trace in Ayotzinapa in 2014.
The death toll far exceeds the 103,000 civilians killed in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2007 and 2014. By 2012, Mexico’s homicide rate was among the world’s highest, at 21 per 100,000.
Researchers at the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económica have found that in Mexico the deadliness ratio – that is, the proportion of civilians injured compared those killed – is alarmingly high. In 2014, the army killed 168 civilians and injured 23 (deadliness ratio: 7.3), while the Marines injured 1 and killed 74 (deadliness ratio: 74). It’s little surprise the Marines are the favoured military force in fighting the drug war.
Mexico’s drug war actually predates Calderón. The term “War on Drugs” came into common usage after American president Richard Nixon established the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1973 to conduct “an all-out global war on the drug menace.”
In Mexico, the armed forces have been turned against the Mexican people, and have gradually established a record of violating human rights. Under Calderón, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission saw a significant increase in citizen complaints of abuse. In the first two years of Calderón’s successor Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration, the army accumulated 2,212 complaints – 541 more than those lodged against the military in Calderón’s first two years.
The war is thus a Mexican-American problem. But the US has managed to stay righteous while quenching its thirst for cocaine and other drugs. And American weapons and drug money laundered by big-name banks continue flowing south into Mexico.
Doing it for the kids
US culpability doesn’t make the Mexican government innocent. Indeed, political analysts Rubén Aguilar and Jorge Castañeda have traced the roots of the drug war back to Calderón’s faulty legitimacy in office.
Aguilar and Castañeda argue that, in 2006, the Mexican government needed an enemy: the drug cartels handily played this role.
Publicly, Calderón’s main justification for waging war on drug traffickers was a supposed increase in consumption among Mexico’s youth. He coined a simple slogan – “Para que la droga no lleguen a tus hijos” (“Keep the drugs out of your children’s reach”) – and recruited masked Lucha Libre wrestlers to reiterate his alleged concern for Mexican kids.
Calderón’s true motives for launching the war were probably a combination of the need to legitimise his government domestically and strengthen his strategic relationship with George W Bush. However, in a forewarning of today’s post-truth era, the fact that Mexican children didn’t actually do drugs didn’t stop him from justifying a war in their name.
The deadly time machine
Calderón wasn’t a cartoon tyrant. He is a savvy lawyer, and a careful observer of society and politics.
The president knew he couldn’t rely on the police, whom 90% of Mexicans feel are corrupt, to undertake his crusade. They’re also outrageously inefficient: an estimated 99% of crimes go unsolved. Now that’s impunity.
His shrewd decision may have initially pleased the Mexican people and their American neighbours, but it didn’t have the support of the constitution. According to article 129, no peacetime military authority may perform functions not directly connected with military affairs. In other words, the military cannot do the job of the police.
Zedillo’s policy was legally challenged, but in 2000 the Court decided that, under the Mexican constitution, the armed forces can legitimately perform law enforcement functions. And thus: the legal basis for Calderon’s cartel war.
As Professor Desmond Manderson has noted, the law is a time machine: the real problem with bad law isn’t its immediate implementation but how it can be used in the future.
Since 2014 president Peña Nieto has persisted with Calderón’s approach, with the clever twist of not publicising it so much. Journalist José Luis Pardo has observed that the current president is like a teenager who, in trying to rebel, repeats what he’s seen his father do.
The supply-side response to a problem driven by demand has not made a dent on drug trafficking.
Nonetheless, two security bills pending in the Mexican parliament seek to sustain it perpetually. Presented by senator Roberto Gil and congressman César Camacho, they propose to permanently enable the Mexican military’s law enforcement role.
Even General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, Mexico’s minister of defence, seemingly thinks this is a bad idea. On December 8 he declared that fighting the war against drugs has “denaturalised” the Mexican military. “None of us studied to chase criminals”, he said.
Ten years after Calderón sent troops to Michoacán, Mexico has a choice: change or perish. We can start by accepting that we will never eliminate drug consumption. Using drugs is a personal decision and a health issue, not a criminal one.
Drawing from the recent recommendations of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, Mexico can outline a policy agenda that decriminalises personal use and possession of drugs while implementing alternatives to incarceration for low-level suppliers. (Full disclosure: I recommended decriminalisation as a member of the transition team of Calderon’s PAN precedessor, Vicente Fox. I’m haunted by the consequences of the government’s failure to do so). It should also consider moving toward regulating the drug market, as Uruguay has done with marijuana, from production to distribution.
Decriminalising both the supply and consumption of something as transnational as drugs can only succeed if it’s embraced on both sides of the border. Even under a Trump presidency, lobbying for decriminalisation in the US would be a wiser use of Mexico’s resources than bemoaning Americans’ taste for Latin American drugs.
Decriminalisation must necessarily be accompanied by demilitarisation. Two recommendations from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein can guide this process: first, to strengthen the capacity of Mexico’s police to protect public safety while respecting human rights and second, to adopt a time frame for withdrawing the military from public security functions.
Follow the leader (again)
In 1996, President Bill Clinton’s drug tsar Barry McCaffrey said that a war waged against a shapeless, intangible enemy as drugs can never truly be won.
Do non-State actors such as International Organisations hold human rights obligations? If so, what do those rights entail, where they derive from and in what circumstances do they apply?
In an article recently published in the International Journal of Refugee Law, LIRC’s Dr Niamh Kinchin identifies the implied powers of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) as a potential catalyst for the creation of its human rights obligations. Implied powers are those powers that are not expressly provided for in an organisation’s constitution but ‘are conferred upon it by necessary implication as being essential to the performance of its duties’. Dr Kinchin argues that UNHCR’s implied powers, plus its capacity to hold human rights obligations via attribution and its derivative international legal personality, as well as its status as an organisation to which the ‘general rules of international law’ apply, gives rise to human rights obligations.
UNHCR has implied powers to administer refugee camps and conduct Refugee Status Determination (RSD). When the ‘quasi-sovereign’ character of camp administration is considered in light of the particular vulnerability of refugees’ human rights, Dr Kinchin claims that their protection cannot be separated from camp administration or from the camp administrator itself, meaning that UNHCR has an obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of the inhabitants of the camps it administers. Dr Kinchin also argues that the unambiguous obligation for all parties that undertake RSD to respect non-refoulement, which is a human rights principle that is considered the ‘cornerstone’ of international protection, creates a concurrent obligation to ensure that RSD procedures are ‘fair, efficient and effective’. This is an obligation that UNHCR shares with States.
Although the identification of rights obligations of non-State actors inevitably faces challenges from the lack of available remedies for individuals who seek liability for human rights breaches, as long as UNHCR undertakes activities that places it in direct contact with individuals, it is imperative that it retains limited human rights obligations that exist alongside of, and not in substitution for, those of States.
Article Citation: Niamh Kinchin, ‘The Implied Human Rights Obligations of UNHCR’ (2016) 28(2) International Journal of Refugee Law 251-275
Reparations for the Injuries Suffered in the Service of the United Nations (‘Reparations’)  ICJ Rep 174, 182 (emphasis added).
We are currently seeking a suitably experienced person for a temporary role as the coordinator of an exciting new volunteer project involving refugee clients of the Illawarra Multicultural Services and UOW law students. Please see below for details about the role.
If you are interested in applying for this role please respond to Dr Niamh Kinchin from the University of Wollongong Law School at firstname.lastname@example.org (Ph: 02 4221 5725) by COB Friday, 16th December. Please include your CV and a statement (no more than one page) on how your experience fits with the project coordinator role.
The project will establish a program linking student volunteers from the University of Wollongong’s law school with local refugee families and the community organisations that assist them. A pressing need exists to provide refugees with information on family reunification and other matters. Currently such assistance is significantly under-resourced and refugee families often do not receive appropriate assistance with navigating an unfamiliar legal system, filling out complex forms and gathering evidence. The project will provide student volunteers who can provide administrative assistance to the clients of Illawarra Multicultural Services, to alleviate the significant backlog of clients.
List of Tasks
Develop and deliver a pilot project to provide volunteer support for refugee communities.
University of Wollongong law students will provide this service to clients of Illawarra Multicultural Services.
Confirming roles and responsibilities for project stakeholders
Setting up project timeline
Creating volunteer resource kit
Developing position descriptions for student volunteers
Setting up volunteer recruitment for students and lawyers
Developing evaluation processes
Developing and coordinating the training program
Overseeing project delivery with the first round of volunteers
Consulting with the project advisory committee
Knowledge and skills:
Project management skills
Skills and experience in working with diverse communities
Strong communication skills
Experience in volunteer management
Experience in working with community-based projects
Law-related or legal education is desirable but not necessary
Training to be delivered by mid – late March 2017.
Volunteer project to be officially launched in April 2017.
$6000, to be paid in two instalments at the beginning and at the completion of the project.
$6000 has been calculated based on 150 hours at $40/hour. This will amount to approximately 21 days of work.
The project coordinator will need an ABN for the purpose of invoicing.
In describing the complex relationship between the two countries, Jeffrey Davidow, American ambassador to Mexico from 1998 to 2002, spoke of “the bear and the porcupine”. The US is an arrogant bear, brawny and insensitive to Mexico’s concerns. Mexico is a resentful porcupine, paranoid about American plots to undermine its sovereignty.
Mexico often detains Central Americans before they reach the US border, including children, like Kendri Hernandez, 3 (L) and Andri Yovani, 2. Carlos Jasso/Reuters
Davidow candidly noted that the bear could crush the porcupine, but every time it has tried to, the porcupine’s sharp spines have hurt the bear’s big paws.
In this contemporary parallel of Davidow’s comparison, the evil porcupine keeps injuring the trusting and innocent bear. But in truth, for the last few years, the porcupine has been doing the bear a big favour by guarding its expansive lair.
These have seen a sharp rise since 2014, when the Mexican government announced the implementation of the Programa Frontera Sur (Southern Border Program). The policy’s key declared objectives were to bring order to migration into Mexico’s southern region while protecting the human rights of migrants who enter and travel through the country.
But implementation has gone off course. In 2013, Mexico deported 80,709 immigrants. In 2014, that figure increased 35% to 107, 814.
Mexico decriminalised undocumented entry into its territory in 2008. Yet it has also increased patrols throughout areas where migrants travel and conducted controversial raids, which human rights organisations have described as hunting parties, to detain migrants in remote places.
Children not immediately deported are locked up in detention centres. From January 2015 to July 2016, 39,751 unaccompanied minors were “secured” by Mexican authorities.
The US has enthusiastically greeted Mexico’s new immigration policies. In January 2015, US President Barack Obama celebrated “strong efforts by Mexico, including at its southern border” that had helped reduce Central American migration into the US “to much more manageable levels”.
Thus, Mexico’s detention and expulsion of immigrants who travel through it en route to the US is beneficial. Once immigrants cross the US border, it’s American money and effort that’s spent on returning them.
The shifting border
In short, the US has outsourced border control. Trump’s rants against sending American jobs to Mexico aside, the president-elect may be pleasantly surprised to learn that Obama persuaded Mexico to take over the task of stopping migrants.
In practice, this means that the Mexican-American border has shifted 3,000 kilometres south. It now passes through the southern states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Veracruz, where Mexico is narrowest and the traffic of immigrants is easier to control (here’s an interactive map).
According to the American Border Patrol, between October 2014 and February 2015, apprehensions of unaccompanied migrant children decreased 42% over the previous year. On the flip side, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission reported a substantive increase in migrant complaints against the authorities in the year after the Southern Border Program was implemented.
Today, most of Mexico has become an extension of the US border region. As intellectual Sergio Aguayo has argued, on immigration matters, Mexico is “a servant of the US”.
Or in Davidow’s framing, the porcupine deploys its spines to protect the bear.
The Porcupine Tamed
This is the paradoxical reality behind Trump’s hyperbolic vision of America’s border area.
A week after the American election, the Mexican government announced an 11-point plan to assist Mexicans in the US, who migrated both legally and illegally, with accurate information on possible changes to immigration policy.
“These are uncertain times,” said Secretary of Foreign Relations Claudia Ruiz Massieu in a Twitter video, speaking directly to immigrants. “The government of President Enrique Peña Nieto and all Mexicans are with you. We are going to be closer than ever”.
Mexico’s measures include a 24-hour hotline that will allow people to report harassment and immigration raids, and the expansion of deportation-defense work at the Mexican Embassy and 50 consulates.
The mildness of these measures starkly contrasts with the brutality of Trump’s projected policies. As Univision reporter Jorge Ramos has pointed out, the government of Enrique Peña Nieto, paralysed by fear, has seemingly decided to kneel before Trump.
The financial, diplomatic and commercial consequences of the coming era cannot be addressed through tweets or hotlines.
An ethical revolution
For 20 years, a group of women from La Patrona, Veracruz, has been feeding thousands of Central American migrants. Each day, “Las Patronas”, the (lady) Bosses, stand a few metres away from the train – known as “La Bestia” (The Beast) – that transports Central American immigrants through Mexican territory. When they hear the train’s whistle, they toss drinks, tortillas and beans to the hungry migrants.
These women offer a powerful human rebuke to Mexico’s policies toward vulnerable travellers, who, after all, have grown up and lived in the same rough and violent conditions that compel Mexicans to journey northward. Their basic act of decency is an ethical revolution; people do not surrender as easily as governments do.
With El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala structuring a common strategy to face the challenges of a Trump presidency, Mexico has the opportunity to ally with its neighbours and render Trump’s wall useless by improving quality of life in the region.
The first step is to acknowledge the importance of social and economic rights, such as education or health services, in deepening democracy and fighting inequality. Other provisions in the Central American strategy include improving security while respecting human rights and strengthening Mexico’s relations with Latin American countries.
If Mexico’s government is not up to the challenge, (as its harshness with migrants and mildness toward Trump suggest), then Mexican citizens can nonetheless follow las Patronas’example. Many Mexican academic institutions, including the Colegio de la Frontera Norteand civil society groups, such as the Tabasco-based migrant refuge “La 72”, are responding to the Central America border crisis with calls for rights-based immigration policies. Together, Mexicans can exercise the dignity of saying “no” – both to Trump, the bully to the north, and to Peña Nieto, their very own American pawn.
Such efforts support George Orwell’s assertion that “if men would behave decently the world would be decent”. Las Patronas tell a tale more radical than that of the porcupine and the bear, which is that even when governments are indecent, nobody can prevent the people from embracing decency.