More than 4,000 migrants have crossed the southern border every day this year on average, a 44.5% increase over 2020.
An average of 4,026 migrants — largely from Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — entered each day in 2021, primarily into Chiapas. The border state saw 1.2 million crossings in the first 10 months of the year, which is more than the 893,000 total it recorded in 2020.
The National Immigration Institute (INM) has reacted to the surge in Chiapas by containing migrants in the city of Tapachula, and in many cases imprisoning them in detention centers. Such detentions increased nearly threefold in Chiapas in annual terms this year: in 2020 there were 25,000 detentions, compared to 67,376 in 2021.
However, that policy of containment has put unsustainable pressure on the refugee agency COMAR which has been unable to process the flood of asylum applications, leaving migrants stranded without the right to work or travel. Some have waited more than a year for their applications to be resolved.
Chiapas is the point of greatest friction: the border states of Tabasco, Campeche and Quintana Roo have only reported 30,151 land entries this year. However the 27,000 detentions recorded in Tabasco in 2021 is still four times higher than the state’s figure for 2020.
Faced with little prospect of migration slowing, COMAR and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have agreed to increase the federal agency’s workforce with an extra 230 staff, the newspaper Milenio reported.
Meanwhile, migrants from the caravan that left Tapachula on October 25 protested in Mexico City on Saturday for International Migrants Day, just days after completing their mammoth trek to the capital.
The convoy congregated outside the U.S. Embassy with signs saying “Migration is not a crime, the crime is the government that represses;” “migration is not for pleasure, it’s a necessity,” and “Mexico, do not stop us.”
One migrant expressed distrust in the government of President López Obrador: “He has repressed us with the National Guard, with the police, we believe in him very little. But first [we hope] God touches his heart and does the right thing. May he will have a little humanity.”
Honduran migrant Christian Gutierrez who traveled with his wife and two-year-old son said the journey was colored by fear and fatigue, and called on the president to allow the migrants to pass through the country, given that their destination is ultimately the United States.
The president urged U.S. President Joe Biden to change his country’s immigration policy at a meeting in November. He also pointed some responsibility to Biden after the highway disaster that killed 55 migrants in Chiapas on December 9.