The Mexican Foreign Affairs Ministry (SRE) reported Monday that Mexico detained 80,537 Central American migrants from December 2018 to May 2019, all of whom were returned to their homelands.
Mexico: Tariffs Could Worsen Central American Migration
According to the President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) administration, 24,451 people have applied for refugee status in Mexico since January, already two thirds of the number of applications filed during 2018. If this trend continues refuge seekers may reach over 60,000 by the end of 2019 for Mexico.
"Without the important efforts in Mexican migratory matters, the U.S. would have received 250,000 more migrants in 2019 alone," the SRE said in a June 3 statement. The ministry added that "if the regrettable ... tariff rates were implemented, migratory flows would be even more numerous."
Late last Thursday, United States President Donald Trump tweeted the White House will begin to impose a stiff, gradual tariff on all Mexican imports “until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied."
Mexico's Secretary of Agriculture Victor Manuel Villalobos says, if implemented the tariffs would cost the two nations US$117 million per month, or US$3.9 million per day.
The SRE estimates that at least 8,835 U.S. asylum seekers have been relocated to Mexico while awaiting their hearing. In addition, 18,778 people are waiting at U.S. entry ports within Mexican territory, to submit their asylum applications.
While the Mexican government also said it's "new immigration policy, announced in December 2018 (when AMLO took office) emphasizes a humanitarian vision and the protection of human rights, while enforcing Mexican legislation," an April raid on a 'migrant caravan' in Chiapas found some 300 Central Americans arrested and taken away by bus, presumably then deported. The move indicated a common practice in Mexico of refoulement, which legally prohibits nations from deporting those who are at risk of persecution or violence in their home countries.
High deportation numbers in Mexico are nothing new, and nothing this administration should be highlighting in response to Trump's five to 25 percent tariff threats, themselves illegal under the current North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The previous Mexican administration under President Enrique Pena Nieto implemented the Programa Frontera Sur (Southern Border Plan) that was behind the deportation of 600,000 Central Americans between 2014 and 2018. The program was largely funded by the U.S. Barak Obama presidency that sent nearly US$200 million to Mexico to execute the Plan.
Despite continual threats, arrests and deportations, the flow of migrants northward up to U.S. territory has only increased over the past year.
"It's been the hardest thing I've done in my life. I cried every day," Ayop, a 21-year-old woman from Cameroon told EFE who said she flew to Ecuador, crossed the Colombian and Panamanian jungles, then walked from Costa Rica to Guatemala.
Mexican authorities also said in the statement they are cracking down on organized human traffickers. From December 2018 to May 2019, more than 400 people were arrested in Mexico in connection to migrant smuggling.