Posted on January 24, 2019

More Than 10,000 Migrants Request Visas as Caravan Hits Mexico

Mary Beth Sheridan and Sarah Kinosian, Washington Post, January 23, 2019

Mexico said Wednesday that more than 10,000 people have requested visas to cross its southern border as it seeks to grant legal documents to members of a rapidly growing U.S.-bound migrant caravan from Central America.


But the new movement is far less organized than the last caravan. Those migrants traveled together in part to avoid arrest. The current group of migrants, in contrast, will have legal papers and may disperse.

Still, analysts said the new Mexican policy of welcoming migrants with visas marked a stark change from the past — and could lead to an increase in migration and tensions with the Trump administration.


The visas are part of a new policy by center-left President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has decried the sometimes-brutal treatment of Central American migrants by Mexican security forces in the past. In recent years, under American pressure, Mexico has also escalated its efforts to detain such migrants traveling without documents.

López Obrador has called for reducing migration by investing in job creation in Central America. But his government has also indicated its willingness to work with the Trump administration, which is seeking to have Mexico host migrants applying for U.S. asylum during the entire process, which can take months or years.


Since Mexican authorities started accepting applications for the new visas last Thursday, more than 10,000 migrants have applied — including 8,446 adults and 1,897 children or adolescents, according to figures issued Wednesday morning. The vast majority are from Honduras, which suffers high levels of violence, poverty and political instability.

So far, Mexican authorities have granted just 628 visas, causing the number of those stalled on the border to swell.

The soaring number of migrants requesting visas has raised questions about whether such mass movements may become a regular phenomenon. {snip}


Some analysts cautioned that the huge number of Central Americans seeking visas did not necessarily represent a jump in migration — yet.

Stephanie Leutert, head of the Mexico Security Initiative at the University of Texas at Austin, noted that Mexican authorities apprehended more than 18,000 Central Americans trying to cross the country’s southern border illegally in October, and approximately 12,000 in November. Some in the group seeking humanitarian visas, she said, may have been planning to cross illegally — and simply took advantage of a legal option when it emerged.