On January 25, President Trump signed two executive orders laying out new rules to treat unauthorized immigrants on the US-Mexico border and within the US. On Monday, Homeland Security issued memos on how to implement them.
This is all very much consistent with Trump’s campaign promises regarding immigration and Mexico. Having said that, from Mexico’s point of view there are some things to consider, particularly given that Homeland Security is planning to send people back “to the territory from which they came”, regardless of their nationality and without a resolution from immigration courts. This means that the US would be sending hundreds of thousands of migrants from Central and South America, and even from Haiti, Cuba, and Africa, back to Mexico.
The current policy is that these people are detained in the US and allowed to request asylum. Sending them to Mexico would not only generate a conflict with this country, but would result in a potential humanitarian crisis that would increase social and political unrest in Mexico.
Mexico has seen a rise of immigration from Central and South America over the past years, most of which is directed to the US and is using Mexico as a transit country. The wet foot, dry foot policy that allowed Cubans to seek asylum in the US if they entered through land instead of sea, enable some Cubans to use Mexico as a point of entry. Obama ended this policy on January, leaving many Cubans stranded en route to the US.
Additionally, the special treatment granted to Haitians fleeing the devastation from the 2010 earthquake resulted in many of this country’s residents trying to get to the US through the Mexican border. As the US started to overlook Haitians, many have remained in Mexico’s northern states hoping to be granted asylum in the near future.
As of today, at least 4000 Haitians are living in the state of Baja California, causing severe saturation on the refugee camps, which are now unable to provide basic services due to increased costs. Baja California also received 4000 Mexicans repatriated from the US in the past year, causing a deep demographic pressure in a state whose population is no more than 3.2 million and that is relatively prosperous.
We cannot know for sure how many unauthorized immigrants have crossed to the US through Mexico, but here are some recent official figures from the Mexican National Immigration Institute:
-The number of Mexicans repatriated from the US has steadily decreased since its peak in 2009 where 601,356 Mexicans were sent back to their country. In 2016 this number went down to 219,596.
-The number of unauthorized immigrants secured in Mexico has increased progressively since 2013. In this year 86,298 immigrants were captured, whereas in 2016 this number doubled (192,566). 74.6% of these immigrants came from three countries: Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
-The number of unauthorized immigrants who are minors has also been on the rise. In 2013, 9,630 minors were secured in the Mexican territory. By 2016 this number had increased to 39,797. 43% of these were unaccompanied minors, and half were under 11 years old.
-The number of unauthorized immigrants from Africa, Asia or Haiti has also increased dramatically, from 626 in 2012 to 19,329 in 2016.
These trends are partly a result of an improvement in law enforcement in Mexico, but also reflect an increased flow of immigrants trying to get into the US through Mexico. This can give us an idea of how many may have successfully crossed the border and are currently at risk of being deported under the new conditions.