EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — The United States is returning fewer migrants to Mexico to await asylum hearings, which coincides with a sharp, sustained drop in people making their way from Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border, a top Mexican official said on Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said his country received more than 2,000 foreigners sent over by the United States in January under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, compared to more than 12,000 last August. He added that fewer than 2,500 from Central America and other countries remain in Mexican government shelters, not counting thousands in private and church-run facilities.
Likewise, only 11,709 migrants entered Mexico from the south this past January, compared to an average of 50,000 that were coming across the Guatemalan border every month early last year, he said.
Ebrard said the lower numbers can be attributed to people finding out that getting asylum in the United States is not easy and that smugglers and organizers of migrant caravans lied to them last year.
“Caravans don’t work. What the caravan is offering is free transit through Mexico without registration and without problem. That is not true. That is a scam,” Ebrard said at a conference in Mexico City broadcast on YouTube. “There is no such thing as a right of free transit for unregistered persons. People in extreme conditions can get a humanitarian visa, but it cannot be a universal policy.”
Late last year, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups suing the Trump administration came up with a graphic showing federal immigration court denial rates of up to 96.6% in some cities.
The Mexican official said his country in May was on track to field the arrival of more than 1 million people in transit to the United States, had it not effected stronger border controls.
At the urging of President Trump, Mexico last June deployed its National Guard to the border with Guatemala to stop the caravans and began routing migrants to shelters or detention centers. By year’s end, Mexico had deported 141,243 of the foreigners and jailed 277 alleged members of human-trafficking organizations.
“The number of people who are heading to the United States to ask for asylum is going down, too. Why? Because the number of people getting asylum is very small. […] They were being told, ‘you go to the United States, spend 20 days in a facility then you get a work permit if you have a child.’ That’s why we had such a high number of children” in the caravans, Ebrard said. “But now that the flow is reduced, people have more information, more clarity on what is going on and they’re avoiding a long journey an all of its risks.”
He said Mexico expects the downward migration pattern from Central America to continue, especially since its government is investing money in Northern Triangle countries to generate jobs that could dissuade at least some from migrating north.
Ebrard added that Mexico has issued more than 4,000 temporary work permits to migrants in the past few months, particularly in the southern states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Tabasco. Other permits have been issued in the gulf coast state of Veracruz and in northern states — like Chihuahua and Baja California.
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