Mexico has faced immigration pressures from the north, south, and within its own borders in recent weeks, putting it in an increasingly difficult position.
Thousands of migrants continue to cross its southern border, the United States sends thousands more back from the north and there’s the renewed prospect of the U.S. making asylum seekers wait in Mexico for long periods of time.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Thursday the strategy of containing migrants in the south was untenable on its own and more investment is needed in the region to keep Central Americans from leaving their homes.
But the groups of migrants walking north from southern Mexico in recent days have mostly been Haitians, a group that would not be addressed by the president’s proposed tree planting and youth employment programs in Central America.
MEXICO’S SOUTHERN BORDER
Protests among the thousands of mostly Haitian migrants stuck in the southern city of Tapachula have intensified in recent weeks. Many have been waiting there for months, some up to a year, for asylum requests to be processed.
Mexico’s refugee agency, which handles the applications, is overwhelmed. It was already behind and the pandemic slowed things even more. So far this year, more than 77,000 have applied for protected status in Mexico, 55,000 of those in Tapachula. Haitians account for about 19,000 of those applicants.
Tapachula’s shelters are full, leaving many asylum seekers to live in unsanitary conditions while they wait. Without the ability to work, many have few options.
Frustrated by the delay and their living conditions, some began to organize in groups of hundreds. Last Saturday, several groups began walking out of Tapachula headed north. The groups have so far been dispersed and-or detained by Mexican authorities, sometimes with excessive force.
MEXICO’S NORTHERN BORDER
Concern has been growing in northern Mexico since the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the restart of the controversial program that made asylum seekers wait in Mexico while their cases are processed. The Trump-era policy called the Migrant Protection Protocols, but better known as “Remain in Mexico,” led to more than 70,000 asylum seekers waiting, mostly in dangerous Mexican border cities.
The Biden administration ended the program earlier this year and said it would appeal the court decision even as the Department of Homeland Security takes steps to comply. On the ground, asylum seekers trying to enter the U.S. have been frozen out. Shelters in northern Mexico fear they could soon be overwhelmed again by returned asylum seekers. The Mexican government has not said how it will respond.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues the rapid removal of migrants under a pandemic-related authority invoked by the Trump administration. So far this year, the U.S. government has made 674,000 expulsions under that Title 42 authority.