While the number of Mexicans heading to the U.S. has dropped dramatically, a surge of Central American migrants is making the 1,000-mile northbound journey this year, fueled in large part by the rising violence brought by the spread of Mexican drug cartels. Other factors, experts say, are an easing in migration enforcement by Mexican authorities, and a false perception that Mexican criminal gangs are not preying on migrants as much as they had been.
Central American migration remains small compared to the numbers of Mexicans still headed north, but their steeply rising numbers speak starkly to the violence and poverty at home. The perils of the journey have pushed smuggling fees as high as $7,000, as much as double the earlier rates, for a trip that takes weeks, or even months for those delayed by robberies, health problems or difficulties finding transportation.
Honduras, with a population of 7 million, had the world’s highest homicide rate in 2010, with 6,200 killings, or 82.1 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. That’s up from 57 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2008. Neighboring El Salvador had 66 homicides per 100,000 in 2010. The U.S., by comparison, saw about 5 homicides per 100,000 people.
About 56,637 non-Mexican migrants, most of them Central Americans, were detained by the U.S. Border Patrol along the border with Mexico between October and May. That’s more than double the 27,561 detained in the same period a year ago. Meanwhile, the number of Mexican migrants caught at the U.S. southern border decreased 7 percent this fiscal year, to 188,467.