Mexico Deported More Central American Migrants Than US in FY 2012-2017 – Think Tank

By Mark Browne | June 27, 2018 | 5:11pm EDT
People wade across a river along the Mexico-Guatemala border. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Mexico City ( – Mexico deported more Central American migrants than the United States did between fiscal years 2012 and 2017, according to new data from the Migration Policy Institute.

Approximately 1.2 million migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – together known as the Northern Triangle – were removed from the U.S. and Mexico during the five-year period that ended on Sept. 30, 2017, eight months into the new administration.

Of those, 651,063 individuals (55 percent of the total) were deported by Mexico compared to 539,467 deported by the U.S., the MPI figures show.

Most Central Americans entering Mexico do so in an attempt to get to the U.S., according to MPI director of communications Michelle Mittelstadt, but the notion that they have been flowing through Mexico to the U.S. unimpeded by Mexican authorities is inaccurate.

“Mexico has taken on board a very significant role in trying to deter these migration flows from Central America, and that reality is often overlooked,” Mittelstadt said.

“Mexico has worked very hard to come a long ways to partnering with the U.S., working more closely together on the challenges that this immigration presents,” she told

Removal of Northern Triangle migrants from Mexico has been rising since FY 2012, and more than doubled between FY 2012 and FY 2015, according to the MPI figures.

In FY 2015, Mexico removed more than twice as many migrants from Northern Triangle countries than did the U.S. – 165,524 removals compared to 75,342.

The figures for FY 2016 were 149,209 deportations from Mexico compared to 76,472 from the U.S.

Removals from both countries dropped in FY 2017, but Mexico still outpaced the U.S., with 94,587 deportations compared to 74,789.

Uncertainty about the new Trump administration’s immigration policies led to a reduced migration flow in 2017, as migrants “assessed how enforcement and other conditions might be changing,” Mittelstadt said.

Apprehensions by Mexican authorities of migrants from the Northern Triangle rose by 69 percent from FY 2014 to 2015, totaling 172,845 in the latter year.

The MPI attributes the increase in arrests to the implementation of Mexico’s Southern Border Program which, it says, “strengthened migration management in the interior and along the border with Guatemala, in part with U.S. funding.”

According to Francesca Fontanini, spokesperson in Mexico for the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, between 400,000 and 500,000 migrants entered Mexico illegally each year in 2016 and 2017.

The flow into Mexico increased beginning in 2015, she said, due to high levels of violence in the Northern Triangle countries.

The vast majority of the migrants from the Central American countries do not seek asylum in Mexico, however.

“If you compare the people who ask for asylum with those that enter, it’s very small,” Fontanini said.

Some 14,596 migrants formally applied for asylum in Mexico in the calendar year 2017. Only 1,907 individuals were granted asylum status during that period, according to the government’s refugee assistance commission. (From 2013 to the end of 2017, the total number granted asylum was 9,017.)

Honduras (4,272), Venezuela (4,042) and El Salvador (3,708) accounted for the largest contingents of those seeking asylum last year.

Many migrants have left their home countries for economic reasons and don’t ask for asylum in Mexico, Fontanini said, adding that many may not be aware that violence in their home countries might qualify them for asylum, in Mexico or the U.S..

“When you talk to them, some tell you they are fleeing for economic reasons. They don’t want to apply for refugee status, and they want to continue their journey north.”

Fontanini said Mexico does not invest sufficiently in helping asylum seekers.

The country has just four offices nationwide where individuals can apply for asylum, and the application process takes approximately six months.

Requests for asylum in Mexico have more than quadrupled since 2015, rising from 3,424 in 2015 to 14,596 in 2017.

Requests by migrants from Honduras and El Salvador more than tripled during the same period, according to Mexican government data posted on the website of the Center for Immigration Studies.

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