Mexico’s Duplicitous ‘Ant Operation’ Moved Tens of Thousands to the U.S. Border Sight Unseen — and Will Again Through 2022

TAPACHULA, Mexico — Between August and December 2021, Mexico mired between 30,000 and 50,000 U.S.-bound immigrants behind a bureaucratic dam in this southernmost city near the Guatemala border, requiring permission slips for onward movement that purposefully took months to get. This slow-roll-them strategy, backed by two-week Mexican detentions and deportations for those caught without papers, was done in line with Biden White House pressure on Mexico City to reduce the political damage of a historic illegal mass migration tsunami ahead of this year’s mid-term elections.

But just after Christmas 2021, following almost nonstop civil disturbances by the dammed-up and frustrated immigrants, the Mexican government suddenly solved everyone’s problem with a crafty ruse to send hundreds of thousands of migrants to the American border in the coming year without raising any alarms. According to Mexican immigration officials, journalists, and immigrant beneficiaries, the Mexican government mass-distributed an electronic “QR code visa” to thousands almost overnight, then arranged for their exodus by hundreds of buses in atomized groupings sent across 14 different Mexican states farther north. Most Americans and even Mexicans failed to notice that a huge but purposefully diffused surge of people to the American border had even happened, let alone why.

In Mexico, big clandestine movements like this in recent years have earned the colloquial term “ant operation”, which connotes an informal tactic by which immigrant smugglers move large volumes of people in small distributed parties and individuals in many single-file lines so that most evade the notice of authorities.

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