Why Mexico and not the US is now the destination of many migrants from Central America?

When Alexander Valderrama saw the territory of the United States for the first time he was moved. It did not matter that the landscape included Border Patrol trucks and a rusty metal wall

For this 20-year-old, the crucial thing was that the long 3,500-kilometer trip from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, to Tijuana, Baja California, was about to end. There, less than 100 meters away was the goal. “I thought: it’s the last step, now I’m going to get there” by telephone to BBC Mundo.

“I was wrong, I could never get close. They did not even let me ask for asylum as they had told me it was better. ”

Alexander started back to the south, but on the way, at one of the stops on his trip back to Honduras, he found a job.

Now he washes cars in a street business in Guadalajara, Jalisco, in western Mexico.

During the week he earns 300 pesos a day, about US $ 15, but Saturday and Sunday he can get up to 500 (US $ 26) in a 10-hour day.

“When I left San Pedro, I expected to earn in dollars. But this is not bad. And I do not have to pay the Mara, “he says.

A few weeks ago Alexander made a fundamental decision. “I’m going to stay in Mexico, to see if everything goes well,” he confesses.

Niño mira un vehículo de la Patrulla Fronteriza en la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México en Tijuana.

“The process has already started” Like Alexander, more and more Central Americans choose to stay in Mexico instead of traveling to the United States.

It is not officially known how many they are, as most enter the country irregularly, and to avoid possible deportation they maintain a low prole.

But some data show evidence of significant growth in recent years. One is the number of asylum applications received by the Mexican Commission for Refugee Services (Comar).

In 2014, the agency received 2,000 requests for refuge. Four years later, in 2018, the figure was 23,000. The majority of applicants are Central American migrants fleeing violence in their countries, according to the Oce of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

The number of those seeking asylum in Mexico increased in the recent caravans of migrants, last November.

It is an incipient migration but the process has already begun, says Leticia Calderón Chelius, a researcher at Instituto Mora.

Migrante en un campamento para personas deportadas cerca de la frontera entre México y EE.UU.

“We do not have a statistically significant number, but it does not mean it’s not happening,” he explains.

“I would be very careful to say that a pattern is generated because we still do not see it. It does not mean that we’re not going to see it, that’s what we’re going for in the future. ”

The numbers Why are there more Central American migrants who decide to stay in Mexico?

“The first reason is that they can not cross into the United States,” explains Calderón Chelius.

“And the other is that they do not want to be in their country of origin. They are the two leading reasons “in the decision of the migrants.

In fact, many who request asylum, especially from Honduras and El Salvador, ee violence in their countries. And it shows in the profile of the migrants.

According to data from the Immigration Policy Unit of the Ministry of the Interior, in 2010 most of the Central Americans who entered the country were young adults.

As of 2014, there was a change, remember the College of the Northern Frontier. That year the irregular entry to Mexico of 62,000 unaccompanied minors was recorded.

And among the adults, there were also variations: of the 390,000 Central American migrants who crossed the Mexican southern border that year, 37% were women. That is, more than 144,000.

Refugio para migrantes en Tijuana.

The data is maintained since then. The Secretary of the Interior, Olga Sánchez Cordero, says that last year more than 300,000 migrants from Central America entered Mexico.

According to civic organizations, this profile of migrants has a reason: the growing violence in countries such as Honduras or El Salvador.

Thus, for some like Angie, a single mother from Santa Cruz de Yojoa, Honduras, staying in Mexico is a better option than the United States.

“I’m going with my aunt to Monterrey,” he tells the BBC before joining the caravan that left in mid-January.

“He says there are many opportunities there. I do not have much contact with my son’s father, he does not help me at all. In Monterrey I’m going to work with my aunt. ”

The crossroads

Monterrey is the capital of Nuevo León, in northeastern Mexico. It is the third largest city in Mexico and since 2013 is the residence of hundreds of Central American migrants.

The majority came to the population to follow the shortest route to travel to the United States from Central America.

It is a road that begins in the Mexican southeast, continues in the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico and culminates in Tamaulipas, Mexico, neighbor of Texas, United States.

The migrants who arrived at that border could not cross into US territory. In addition, they faced the siege of local drug tracking gangs.

Many returned but on the way back found employment in Monterrey.

And they stayed there, say activists such as Eduardo Villarreal, director of the Casa Nicolás hostel.

As it happens in the rest of the country it is not known how many there are, but according to the Center for Migration Studies in Mexico it could be about 3,500.

Monterrey is an example of what happens in other cities in Mexico, activists agree.

The harsh immigration policy of the US president, Donald Trump, forces thousands of Central Americans to decide whether to persist in the trip or stay in Mexican territory.

Source: El Observador, BBC

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