Central American Minors Turn Down Refuge in Mexico

By Kausha Luna on April 4, 2016

Despite being offered refuge in Mexico, Central American minors continue to travel north to the United States.

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch published a report which revealed that "less than one percent of the children who are apprehended by Mexican immigration authorities are recognized as refugees." Between January and November 2015 Mexican immigration authorities detained 16,869 unaccompanied minors from the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador). Of those apprehended, only 52 received refugee status, which means only 0.3 percent received international protection in the first 11 months of 2015.

Additionally, the report provides several criticisms of Mexico's failure to protect Central American "refugee" and migrant children. The criticisms include: immigration agents fail to inform them of their rights or inadequately screen them for possible refugee claims, they do not receive the necessary legal aid to apply for refugee status, and the conditions in which they are held compel them to accept deportation to avoid prolonged detention.)

Mexico's National Institute for Migration (INM) quickly responded to these criticisms. In a press release the INM reassured that it prioritizes the minors' safety and respect of their rights. It also acknowledges that these minors' final destination is the United States, and they use Mexico as a passageway. Moreover, the INM explains that, "All unaccompanied girls, boys, and adolescents are offered refuge in Mexico and the INM has documented that minors reject it because their sole purpose is to reach the United States or to be reunited with their closest relatives because in Mexico they would not have to opportunity to do so." In other words, when these Central American minors fail to reach the United States, they reject refugee status in Mexico and choose to be returned to their country of origin where they have family.

In light of this information several questions should be raised. What credibility do these minors have to claim asylum when they reach the United States, after they cross through a country which offers them refuge? If these minors are fleeing violence in their countries, why do they choose to return rather than accept refuge in Mexico? The touted argument, "they are fleeing for their lives, so we must take them in", certainly sounds less convincing after they forgo refuge in Mexico and further endanger their lives as they continue to the U.S. border.