Figures suggest Mexico is now deporting more Central American migrants than the United States, a shift raising several implications regarding regional criminal dynamics.
According to a September report (pdf) from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), Mexico has deported at least 107,814 Central American migrants in the past year (around 2,000 per week), far surpassing the 70,448 deported from the United States during the same period.
Amid increased immigration enforcement by Mexico, US apprehensions of Central Americans in 2015 thus far have fallen by more than half compared to the same period in 2014. Mexican apprehensions are projected to grow by 70 percent this year, MPI found.
Statistics from Guatemala’s government migration office suggest a similar trend. From January to September 2015, a total of around 120,000 Guatemalans, Salvadorans, and Hondurans were deported by land from Mexico to Guatemala (which receives deported migrants from Mexico owing to their shared border). This is compared with roughly 80,000 for the same period in 2014.
“The reality of the current situation is that massive deportation is now happening in Mexico, not the United States,” Valdete Wilemann, director of Honduras’ Returned Migrant Attention Center, told Mexican newspaper El Universal.
Detentions of Central American migrants in Mexico began rising following the implementation of Mexico’s Southern Border Plan in August 2014, whereby officials have stepped up immigration enforcement along the border with Guatemala.
InSight Crime Analysis
Stricter Mexican immigration enforcement has several implications.
First is its impact on Mexico’s human smuggling networks and the price migrants pay to hire a smuggler — commonly referred to as a “coyote” — to guide them to the United States. A more difficult journey will likely result in higher fees charged by coyotes, turning human smuggling into an even more profitable business and perhaps enticing criminal groups to deepen their involvement in this business.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Smuggling
Additionally, the large numbers of migrants Mexico is now deporting raises some human rights concerns. Namely, the processing of so many migrants creates doubts over whether Mexican officials are considering a migrant’s status on a case-by-case basis, and whether or not they qualify for asylum or refugee status.
This ties into the reality Mexico’s stricter immigration enforcement policies will likely do little to dissuade Central Americans from making the journey north. Rather, it simply shifts the locale where migrants are being detained, and does not help address the rampant violence and gang activity many Central Americans are fleeing.