Mexico is on track to catch and deport thousands more Central American migrants than the United States this year, according to a new report.
By the end of this year, Mexico is expected to have deported 70% more Central American migrants than it did in 2014, according to the report by the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank based in Washington.
In comparison, U.S. apprehensions of immigrants in the country illegally are expected to be down by half this year, compared with 2014.
Mexico has apprehended 173,000 Central American migrants in 2015, according to Mexico’s National Migration Institute, the report says, compared with 110,000 in the United States, according to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
The report also says Mexico deported about six times as many unaccompanied children as the United States last year, and that number is expected to double to 12 times more in 2015.
Mexican authorities had for years largely turned a blind eye to the tens of thousands of migrants passing through on their way north, despite widespread reports that criminal gangs and corrupt law officials were kidnapping and “disappearing” thousands of them each year and extorting money from many.
But the government came under intense pressure from the U.S last year to crack down on migrants after waves of children from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala began arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, where about 52,000 were apprehended in 2014.
Mexico last summer launched its Plan Frontera Sur, or Southern Border Program. Priorities of the strategy include keeping migrants from riding the trains (known as La Bestia or the beast) across Mexico, stemming the flow of migrants across its southern border and creating a new type of visa to allow people from Central America to enter the country legally, reducing their vulnerability to extortion.
But some human rights activists who work with migrants in the many shelters around Mexico say that the plan has resulted in an increase in violence and persecution of migrants.
The think tank report emphasized the need to tackle the causes of migration in violence-ridden countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
“Balanced approaches to regional migration dynamics must include ways not just to shift the flows, but to deflate the pressures that cause them,” the report says.
Bonello is a special correspondent.