HomeNewsAnalysisDrug Violence Forces Narco-Refugees into US
ANALYSIS

Drug Violence Forces Narco-Refugees into US

COLOMBIA / 17 OCT 2011 BY PATRICK CORCORAN EN

Violence driven by organized crime in Mexico and Central America has forced thousands from their homes, with some fleeing over the U.S.'s southern border in what could be a new challenge for migration authorities.

The increase in Mexican "narco-refugees" is the subject of a new report from the Strategic Studies Institute, an academic offshoot of the U.S. Army. As author Paul Rexton Kan argues, the rising number of Mexicans seeking asylum reflects a rapidly changing environment in Mexico, and has the potential to create a serious set of headaches for U.S. policy-makers:

If the health of the Mexican state declines because criminal violence continues, increases, or spreads, U.S. communities will feel an even greater burden on their systems of public safety and public health from narco-refugees. Given the ever-increasing brutality of the cartels, the question is whether and how the U.S. Government should begin to prepare for what could be a new wave of migrants coming from Mexico.

[...]

Yet, the lack of a clear U.S. policy on what to do about narco-refugees from Mexico mirrors the complicated U.S. relationship with Mexico itself, thus compounding the complication.

According to the report, roughly 2,500 Mexicans used violence as the basis for an appeal for asylum in the U.S. in 2008, an almost 50-fold increase from 2006, when President Felipe Calderon took office. Other reports differ with regard to the size of the increase -- Global Post says that more than 2,600 requested asylum as early as 2006 -- but most sources suggest that several thousand people are requesting asylum annually. Additionally, many thousands more are using alternative means of entry into the U.S. to escape the violence, from tourist visas to legal residencies for investors.

The report focuses primarily on the challenge coming from those looking to escape Mexico for the U.S., but outbreaks in drug violence have also spurred migration within Mexico. In all, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) estimates that 230,000 Mexicans qualify as displaced.

Of course, it can be difficult to distinguish between forcible displacement and voluntary migration, and some studies offer a more worrying picture. According to data provided by Inegi, Mexico’s statistical agency, in 2010, the population in the embattled northern city of Juarez declined from 1.3 million to roughly 1 million in just two years. Another study released around the same time from the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juarez (UACJ, for its initials in Spanish) estimated the size of the population loss at 500,000. According to a further study by UACJ, 33,000 homes in the city are unoccupied.

In Monterrey, the wealthy northern metropolis previously considered Mexico’s safest big city, rising violence has helped scare people off. An anonymous source recently told journalist Jorge Zepeda Patterson that the number of students at the prestigious Tec de Monterrey, a mega-campus that has served as a significant draw to the area, has dropped by more than 25 percent in the past year and a half.

The problem is not limited to Mexico; in the northern half of Central America, where the violence is far more severe than in Mexico, residents have also been driven from their homes. In September, for instance, an anti-drug operation in the north Guatemalan province of Peten sent more than 90 families scrambling across the border to Mexico. As InSight Crime reported, the residents of the village of Nueva Esperanza said that government security forces accused them of trafficking drugs, a charge they denied, and then burned their homes.

The relatively limited extent of displacement is one element that separates the current security travails in Central America and Mexico from the country with which they are most often compared: Colombia. In the South American nation, where the government’s loss of territory has been more severe, and where the presence of leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitaries heightened the situation, making it far more politically charged and complicated for civilians, there has been mass displacement from many areas of the country and migration into the cities. The IDMC says that more than 5 million people have been displaced in Colombia, amounting to more than 10 percent of the population, compared to just over 0.2 percent in Mexico.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CHILE / 20 JAN 2022

Authorities in Chile have reported a string of massive maritime seizures of marijuana, indicating traffickers are searching for new smuggling…

COLOMBIA / 23 APR 2021

The Libertadores del Vichada are a splinter group of the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC) based in…

COLOMBIA / 1 FEB 2011

In an unprecedented display of non-partisanship, President Hugo Chavez’s government is teaming up with opposition political officials in the Venezuelan…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…

THE ORGANIZATION

Coverage of Fallen Paraguay Prosecutor Makes Headlines

20 MAY 2022

The murder of leading anti-crime prosecutor, Marcelo Pecci, while on honeymoon in Colombia, has drawn attention to the evolution of organized crime in Paraguay. While 17 people have been arrested…