Mexico’s agreement last year to crack down on Central American migrants attempting to reach the United States has led to large deportations of unaccompanied minors back to Guatemala and neighboring countries and far fewer children reaching the U.S.-Mexico border, a new study says.
The Pew Research Center, analyzing Mexican and U.S. government data, said apprehensions of minors at the U.S.-Mexico border by U.S. officials decreased to 12,509 from 21,403 in the first five months of the fiscal year beginning in October.
Deportations back to Central America of unaccompanied minors by Mexican authorities, who previously had largely turned a blind eye to migrants crossing the country, increased 56% over the same period, Pew said.
The report, which was released Tuesday, also notes that the largest group of minors caught by the U.S. come from Guatemala, followed by El Salvador and then Honduras. In the last couple of years, Hondurans constituted the highest number of migrants and of apprehended minors.
A surge last summer in the number of mostly Central American children attempting to reach the United States and apparently traveling without their parents alarmed U.S. officials. Most were fleeing extreme violence and harsh poverty in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Many parents who sent their children were also operating under a mistaken impression that if the minors arrived at the border alone, they would be admitted to the United States.
Adding to the concerns, many migrants who traverse Mexico fall prey to gangsters who extort, beat, rape and sometimes kill them, often in cahoots with local officials.
Bowing to U.S. pressure, Mexico agreed to step up efforts to block migrants and send them home. The Times documented the change in practice in September as Mexican agents raided flophouses, bars and railways where migrants congregated. Thousands were deported.
The Mexican government says it is acting to protect the migrants. But a new investigation by the Mexican news website Animal Politico and the CIDE think tank says the policy shift in fact has amounted to a “manhunt” that has abused migrants and stranded many in detention centers.
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