Central Americans are choosing to seek asylum in Mexico instead of braving a U.S. border crossing.
Since the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, the asylum seekers have chosen to petition Mexico for help. Applications for asylum have increased by over 150%, according to data from Mexico.
Reuters reports that “[b]etween November 2016 and March, Mexico’s refugee agency, COMAR, received 5,421 asylum applications, up from 2,148 over the same period in 2015 and 2016.”
Meanwhile, along the southwestern U.S.-Mexico border, the number of detentions has decreased by about 4% over the same time period.
Many of the migrants come from countries where crime and violence have driven them to seek a better life. Countries like Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are top among those the migrants report to hail from. After a long journey through Central America, the migrants would often use Mexico as a stopping point before attempting to cross into the U.S. illegally.
President Trump’s tough stance on illegal immigration may be halting that practice, with promises of a new border wall and the switch to more aggressive illegal immigration and deportation laws possibly dissuading them from moving on.
While it may be too early to attribute the change directly to Trump’s 2016 election, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has data indicating a 93 percent fall in the number of Central American parents and children stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border. There were only around 1,000 in March.
“The views that people have about a political change, they definitely impact everyone’s consciousness,” COMAR director Cinthia Pereza said.
Pereza says that there has been a rise in asylum applications over the course of the last few years. There were 8,781 applicants in 2016 and just under 3,500 in 2015. This year, COMAR predicts at least 22,500 asylum applications.
Pereza doesn’t think Trump’s election will change those estimates or that the U.S. election had an effect on the figures.
COMAR is currently in talks with civil society groups like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to identify peoples and populations eligible for asylum. UNHCR’s spokeswoman in Mexico, Francesca Fontanini, said that new efforts, like those made to reunite families, create better conditions for Central American migrants who go to Mexico, a possible reason for the increase in applicants.
Pereza says to know for sure, they’d need to ask “Trump-focused questions” of the asylum seekers.
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