Posted on October 18, 2019

Surge of Mexican Migrants Is New Challenge for Trump Border Crackdown

Nick Miroff et al., Washington Post, October18, 2019

A sudden increase in the number of Mexican families and asylum seekers trying to cross into the United States has raised fears of a new border crisis, frustrating Department of Homeland Security officials who are unable to deter Mexican nationals with the same restrictive immigration policies designed to keep Central Americans out of the country.

Mexico surpassed Guatemala and Honduras in August to again become the single-largest source of unauthorized migration to the United States, according to administration officials who provided data on the Mexican migrants but were not authorized to speak about the situation publicly. In recent weeks, thousands of Mexican adults and children have been camping out in queues at U.S. border crossings, sleeping in tents while awaiting a chance to apply for safe refuge.

Most concerning to U.S. authorities is the percentage of Mexicans declaring a fear of persecution or harm, a claim that typically prevents their rapid deportation. Their requests for asylum are adding to the backlog of nearly one million pending cases in U.S. immigration courts, and by law, the United States must process their claims.

Neither the government of Mexico nor the Trump administration has publicly acknowledged the sudden change, a trend that threatens to shatter the fragile detente between the U.S. president and Mexican leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The number of Mexican adults arrested along the border jumped by about 25 percent from the end of July to the end of September, a period when migration from Guatemala, Honduras and Salvadoran continued to decline, according to the latest statistics obtained by The Washington Post. The number of Mexican family groups taken into custody also surged, officials said.

Many of the migrant Mexican families say they are escaping corruption and flaring drug violence, which is intensifying by the day. In the state of Sinaloa, waves of cartel gunmen with automatic weapons attacked security forces and torched vehicles Thursday following the arrest of one of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s sons, sending panicked residents fleeing as the capital city of Culiacan descended into chaos. {snip}


About once a week, a commercial bus, owned by a local travel agency, shuttles people directly to Tijuana and other border towns, offering asylum seekers a “door-to-door package,” said Eduardo Cortés, the city manager.


In the past month alone, he said, 115 people have come to municipal offices looking for documentation that might help their asylum cases. Some of them are women seeking to show that they are victims of domestic abuse; city officials said they provide no such documentation, and instead offer the victims access to psychological services or shelters.

Officials were initially caught off guard because they rarely receive such requests for documentation. They later recognized the requests as part of the flood in asylum cases.

“It’s a reaction to false information, but it’s also a reaction to the economic conditions in our country,” Cortés said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has tried to limit the number of Mexicans arriving at the U.S. border by allowing a small number of people to apply for humanitarian protection each day, a practice known as metering. {snip}


{snip} Trump administration officials attribute the decline to the crackdown by Mexican national guard forces and restrictive, experimental U.S. measures such as the Migrant Protection Protocols — a policy known as “Remain in Mexico” — that require migrants to wait outside U.S. territory while their cases proceed.

But those enforcement tools are essentially useless for handling Mexican asylum applicants, because Mexican authorities cannot detain Mexican nationals en route to the U.S. border and asylum seekers from Mexico cannot be returned to the country they are fleeing.

The administration’s other major deterrent tool, an “asylum bar” to disqualify those who fail to apply for protection in other nations while traveling to the U.S. border, also does not apply to Mexican nationals.


At least 2,500 Mexican asylum seekers are waiting at three bridges connecting the city to El Paso, according to Valenzuela. CBP permits just a few families to apply each day, he said.

A year ago, “we didn’t have this exodus of people who wanted to cross,” Valenzuela said. A few Mexicans would arrive and quickly be processed. “Now it’s a flood of people.”


Unlike the Central American migrants, the Mexicans did not appear to arrive with smugglers, Valenzuela said. Most took buses to the border after hearing through word-of-mouth of other Mexicans who had received asylum, he said.

“They communicate a lot among themselves – a lot,” Valenzuela said. “As a result of this communication, among neighbors, friends and so on, we are getting a constant flow of people from these communities.”