Central Americans Choose Mexico over the United States

By Kausha Luna, April 27, 2017

The arrival of President Trump at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. appears to be having a deterrent effect on Central Americans.

Tabasco Hoy, a Mexican news daily, highlights the story of one of these Central Americans. Per the article, Cinthya Marisol Pereira is a 20-year-old who left Honduras due to "insecurity." Her goal was to reach Mexico and seek asylum there — not in the United States.

Pereira left Honduras on March 30 and arrived in Mexico on April 2. Upon her arrival, she went to a shelter an hour from the Guatemala-Mexico border, where she asked for help to obtain her refugee status, "Upon arriving at 'la 72' I asked for help to obtain the refugee credential. Today I have it, it will be a start for me."

Statistics from Mexico's Commission for Assistance to Refugees (COMAR) obtained by Reuters show that between November 2016 and March 2017, the agency obtained 5,421 asylum applications, in comparison to 2,148 over the same period in 2015 and 2016. However, it is unclear how much of this increase can be attributed to President Trump. In fact, the number of asylum applications in Mexico has been on the rise for several years. In 2013, COMAR received 1,296 applications. With a 64 percent increase in 2014, 2,137 individuals began the procedure to acquire refugee status. This number rose again to 3,423 applicants in 2015. Last year, Mexico's refugee agency received 8,781 petitions. COMAR projects that it will receive approximately 22,500 asylum applications in 2017.

The director of COMAR told Reuters that these increases may be attributed in part to COMAR's efforts with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other civil society organizations to identify individuals who could be eligible for asylum. A UNHCR representative in Mexico added that better receiving conditions in the country, coupled with efforts to reunify families, could be another factor contributing to the rise in applications.

Nevertheless, while the impact that Trump has had on these numbers cannot be determined, it would be a mistake to say that there is no relationship to the administration's messaging. As COMAR's director explained, "The views that people have about a political change, they definitely impact everyone's consciousness."

So far the administration's rhetoric may have served as an early warning to those considering making their way to the United States. But in order for this deterrent to be sustainable, it must be followed by concrete actions of enforcement.


Further analysis on asylum applications in Mexico, disaggregated by applicants' country of origin, will be published when COMAR makes the information available for 2016 and 2017 YTD.