Gabriel Stargardter and Julia Edwards, Yahoo! News, June 10, 2016
Mexico is struggling to stem the flow of Central American migrants traveling to the United States ahead of the U.S. presidential election, causing major concern in Washington, which is weighing sending more agents to help.
Last year, Mexico detained over 190,000 migrants, more than double the number in 2012.
But official data examined by Reuters shows that fewer migrants have been captured in Mexico this year even as the number caught on the U.S. border has soared.
The number of families stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border jumped 122 percent between October 2015 and April 2016 from the same period a year earlier, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The number of detained “unaccompanied minors”–children traveling without relatives–was 74 percent higher. Most of the Central Americans come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Despite those increases, fewer migrants are being caught as they move through Mexico. Over the same period, Mexico detained and deported about 5 percent fewer people than in 2014/15. So far this year, 3.5 percent fewer unaccompanied minors have been stopped.
The DHS is considering sending more agents south to train Mexican officials on how to track human traffickers and stop migrants crossing the Mexico-Guatemala border, according to an internal briefing document obtained by Reuters.
Elisabel Enriquez, Guatemala’s vice-consul in Tapachula, said migrant smugglers now rent trucks and shuttling migrants from southern Mexico all the way to the U.S. border over 2,000 km away for up to $8,000 per person.
Two such trucks were stopped in recent weeks, she said, one stuffed with about 115 migrants and the other about 60.
Some migrants immediately apply for asylum on arrival in Mexico. Once granted a refugee visa, they can travel through Mexico without fear of being deported, said Irmgard Pund, who runs the local Belen migrant shelter.
So far this year, asylum applications with Mexican refugee agency COMAR are up over 150 percent compared with 2015, and could reach 10,000 by the end of the year, said Perrine Leclerc, head of the Tapachula field office for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
The rise in families heading north is partly due to a 2015 U.S federal court decision limiting the time mothers and children can be held in detention, which has created the mistaken impression they can stay in the United States, U.S. officials say.