Monday, May 20, 2024

Mexico saw unprecedented numbers of undocumented migrants arrive in 2023 

The presence of undocumented migrants in Mexico rose significantly last year, surpassing by 77% the numbers recorded in 2022, says the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The U.N.-affiliated IOM released its Annual Bulletin of Migration Statistics 2023 for Mexico on April 12.

Jerry MacGillivray, deputy head of mission at IOM Mexico, said the report “highlighted the record of irregular migration in Mexico in 2023.”

The IOM found 782,176 encounters with undocumented migrants in Mexico last year, whereas in 2022 only 441,409 such encounters were recorded. MacGillivray explained that the IOM uses the terminology “encounters” because the same migrant may be detained more than once while traversing the country.

The numbers indicate a sharp increase since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. (The IOM database reveals only 82,379 encounters occurred in 2020.)

The report also recognized that greater numbers of children were detained in Mexico last year. Although the percentage of children among immigrants was roughly the same (15% in 2022 versus 16% in 2023), the year-on-year increase overall explains the high number of children — 133,660 in 2023.

Migrants attempt to cross into the U.S. near Piedras Negras
Mexican immigration authorities detained more children last year than in 2022. (Cuartoscuro)

The IOM did acknowledge that Mexico’s immigration controls appear to be effective as evidenced by a decrease in incidents of violence toward migrants. And this even as there has been a reduction in deportations of Central Americans to their home countries — 56% fewer in 2023 than in 2022, newspaper Animal Político reported.

Mexico received a record number of asylum applications last year, while at the same time processing a record number of documented arrivals (nearly 44 million), Animal Político reported. In fact, this is now the third consecutive year that a new record in documented arrivals has been set.

At the same time, the expiration of the U.S. Title 42 regulation in May 2023 impacted the numbers. Title 42 — part of the Public Health Service Act of 1944 — allows the U.S. government to immediately expel undocumented migrants, which resulted in the deportation to Mexico of considerable numbers of migrants. Overall, the number of deportations from the United States to Mexico in 2023 were down 17% compared to 2022.

MacGillivray speculated that CBP One, the U.S. government’s new visa application, has also contributed to the more orderly patterns of migration here. “The [migrants] know they must use a digital tool to make an appointment and it’s best to try from Mexico City or [non-border] states,” he said, according to La Jornada.

That means fewer people are clustered at Mexico’s border with the United States where overcrowded migrant shelters had become a safety hazard. “In the middle of 2023, most of those shelters were at above 100% occupancy, some even hitting 200%,” he said.

The reduction in numbers of migrants at the border with the United States was further reflected in the IOM’s January data.

There have also been important developments in Mexico this year related to immigration.

Haitian migrants in Reynosa
According to one expert, the CBP One application, which allows migrants to schedule immigration appointments online, has helped ease crowding at shelters along the Mexico-U.S. border. (File photo)

In February, 50 companies joined a coalition of major businesses committed to hiring refugees and migrants. And last month, the Mexican government reached an agreement with Venezuela to repatriate that country’s migrants. There are between 4,000 and 5,000 Venezuelans “stranded” in Mexico trying to gain entry to the United States.

MacGillivray concluded by saying more could be done to improve the situation for migrants while calling on Mexico’s presidential candidates to open a dialogue with the IOM with respect to migration policy.

With reports from La Jornada and Animal Político

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