Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Mexico suspends migrant deportations, leaving thousands stranded

Mexico’s National Immigration Institute (INM) has suspended deportations of undocumented migrants due to a lack of resources, following a year of record-breaking transit of migrants through the country.

INM head Francisco Garduño ordered the suspension on Dec. 1, in an internal memo that was seen and verified by the Associated Press and later by Mexican news media.

Migrant river crossing Coahuila
Migrant crossings are particularly high in Coahuila. Without deportation services operated by the Mexican government, it is unclear how migrants who have been detained will be repatriated to their home countries. (Alejandro Rodríguez/Cuartoscuro)

In Mexico’s northern border cities, the newspaper Milenio spoke with several officials who confirmed the halt of deportations, adding that Mexican border guards no longer even approach people who appear to be migrants.

“It is the responsibility of [Mexico’s] federal government to address the migration issue,” said Oscar Ibáñez, the Chihuahua governor’s representative in Ciudad Juárez. “Resources need to be allocated in the budget, and this lack of resources needs to be declared a crisis.”

Several officials expressed alarm that the halt to deportations would trigger even greater migrant arrivals at the northern border, and possible closures of international bridges into the United States. The state of Texas and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) have already ordered several border crossing closures this year, causing heavy financial losses. In Piedras Negras, Coahuila, the Eagle Pass International Bridge has currently been closed for more than a week.

“There is no intention in the Customs offices to reopen the bridge,” one INM official told Milenio. “Every day, about 2,000 people arrive who want to cross the border.”

Migrants arriving in Ciudad Juárez
The crossing at Ciudad Juarez is one of the busiest on the border, with around 2000 prospective migrants attempting to cross every day. (Pedro Anza/Cuartoscuro)

Meanwhile, the suspension of deportations has left thousands of migrants who have already been served deportation orders in limbo – a situation exacerbated by the closure of many publicly-funded migrant shelters.

“These are desperate people who would like to go back to their home countries, but there are no more federal resources,” said Gladys Cañas, a representative of a pro-migrant organization in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, where an estimated 3,000 migrants are stranded.

The INM has a budget of 1.7 billion pesos (US $98 million) for 2023. Legislators have asked to increase this to 1.9 billion pesos (US $109 million) for 2024, given this year’s historic arrivals of migrants.

In the first ten months of the year, 588,626 migrants were detained in Mexico – 25% more than in all of 2022, and 90% more than in all of 2021. Asylum applications are expected to reach at least 140,000 by the end of the year  – 15% more than the record 130,000 set in 2021. Venezuelans make up a large proportion of these migrants, and many of them are children.

These unprecedented numbers are causing huge strain not only in Mexico’s northern border cities, but also further south. Overflowing migrant shelters in Mexico City have pushed many migrants to sleep in the streets, while growing numbers of migrants are moving into Mexico’s southern tourist towns to find work.

Diana Chavolla, head of one migrant shelter in Oaxaca, told Milenio she expected the suspension of deportations to increase migrant flows by up to 60%.

“Without resources, INM agents cannot carry out operations,” she said. “Hopefully this doesn’t get out of hand.”

With reports from Milenio and Animal Político

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