MEXICO CITY—For Mexico, the shoe is now on the other foot.
After decades as the main source of undocumented immigrants in the United States, Mexico is struggling to stop a rising tide of illegal migration on its own soil, building detention centers, adding immigration agents and expelling record numbers of foreigners.
The wave of migrants from Central America, Ecuador, Brazil and other countries threatens to drive up Mexico’s border patrol costs by 30 percent this year as authorities repatriate an unprecedented 215,000 people, the head of the country’s National Migration Institute has warned Mexico’s Congress.
Some of that wave is beginning to reach the U.S. border. In the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, the number of Central American border-crossers is up 86 percent from a year ago, with 7,958 people detained since Oct. 1, the start of the federal fiscal year. At the same time, the number of Mexicans is down 11 percent, to 366,256.
• The number of undocumented immigrants detained in Mexico has risen nearly every year for the past decade, increasing 40 percent from 2000 to 2004. In 1997, authorities caught 86,973 undocumented foreigners. By 2004, the number was 215,695. Of those, 211,218 were deported.
In Arizona, Central Americans are beginning to take the most dangerous or undesirable jobs, like roofing, as Mexican migrants move up the economic ladder.
And in Mexico, they’re increasingly taking work as farm hands and other low-paying jobs, sometimes directly replacing Mexicans who have left for the United States.
“They are coming and taking jobs the Mexicans don’t want,” said Rodolfo Casillas, a migration expert at the Latin American School of Social Sciences in Mexico City. “And their numbers keep going up.”