Migrant asylum petitions skyrocket in Mexico. How has US immigration policy impacted this? 

By February 24, 2023

Mexico City, Mexico — Mexico reported it received 12,863 asylum petitions from migrants in the country in January. 

The record-breaking number of petitions has placed Mexico among the largest destinations for asylum seekers worldwide, a position that may have been impacted by migration policies in the United States. 

According to the head of the Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid (COMAR), Andrés Ramírez, last month, applications to enter the country for humanitarian reasons doubled from the previous record set in January 2021, when migratory officers documented 6,497 requests. 

The United Nations Refugee Agency Global Trends report, published June 2022, showed that Mexico had received the third largest number of asylum applications, behind only the United States and Germany, the primary destination for migrants to the European Union. 

The data, which records forcible displacements during 2021, showed that Mexico registered 131,400 new asylum seekers, while in 2022, 118,478 people applied for asylum in Mexico. In stark contrast, COMAR has registered that for FY 2013, only 1,296 people requested asylum.

Historically, Mexico has never been the final destination for international migrants looking for better economic and social conditions. The North American country, known for its high levels of violence and insecurity towards migrants, has mostly played the role of a bridge between the southern globe and the American dream. 

In an interview with Aztec Reports, COMAR General Coordinator Andrés Ramírez talked about how the exponential growth in migratory flows and asylum requests are due to external conditions such as economic and societal turmoil experienced in the global south and not a product of U.S. policies. 

However, the outsized growth of asylum requests experienced in Mexico for the last three years since the onset of the pandemic happened simultaneously with the banishment of over 2 million migrants from the U.S. into Mexican territory under Title 42. 

Title 42 is a policy which empowers the U.S. government to immediately expel migrants looking to cross the U.S. border. 

“Well, first of all, U.S. policies are U.S. policies, not Mexican policies, unilateral policies … Now, of course, the United States being the first power in the world and sharing a border of over 1,800 miles, obviously we are impacted on any of the policies they develop, and clearly, we are impacted,” said Ramírez. 

U.S. policymaking

Title 42 is a 1940s era migration policy used to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in the U.S., allowing border authorities to immediately expel migrants requesting asylum. Former President Donald Trump reinstated the policy in 2020 during the Covid-19 crisis, and since then, current President Joe Biden has failed to end its usage. 

Nevertheless, the U.S. government has other legal tools to prevent migrants from settling in their country, namely Title 8, another migration policy that, alongside Title 42, curbs migratory flows. 

While Title 42 is associated with immediate removals from the U.S., Title 8 is used to detain migrants, at least temporarily.

During the height of the pandemic, most migrant encounters in the U.S. resulted in their expulsion under Title 42. According to The Pew Research Center, since Trump evoked Title 42 up until the first quarter of 2022, 61% of migrants were expelled under that legal framework, and the remaining (around 1.1 million) were detained under Title 8. 

In addition, those apprehended under Title 8 who aimed to enter the U.S. had to wait for their migratory status resolution and entry into the U.S. in Mexico, under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, imposed by Trump in 2019 and that ended in 2021 during the Biden administration. (The program remains disputed in U.S. courts). 

According to former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard secretly approved of the “remain in Mexico framework”, an accusation Ebrard has dismissed as slander. 

In his book “Never Give an Inch,” Pompeo wrote that the Mexican government publicly denounced the remain-in-Mexico policy while agreeing to its implementation privately. 

Adding fuel to the accusations against Ebrard, former Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Martha Barcena said that the Mexican Foreign Minister lied to her about the “remain in Mexico” policy. 

Welcome to Mexico

In Mexico, some of the policymaking issued by President Biden has been praised by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has obliged to the interests of his U.S. counterpart, allocating military resources and officials to patrol the Mexican border to hamper migration from the south. 

Read more—- https://aztecreports.com/mexico-has-militarized-its-immigration-policy-report/2909/

“We are seeing that some of the immigration policies that President Biden is carrying out are giving results … They are allowing those who want to go to the United States to obtain a kind of work visa by means of a procedure,” said López Obrador at a press conference on February 13, lauding Biden’s latest policies. 

López Obrador with Joe Biden.

Namely, the immigration policy implemented in January by the U.S. government caps the entry numbers to 30,000 migrants per month from Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Haiti, while immediately barring the rest to Mexico under Title 42.

However, according to Human Rights First, the conditions in these countries make it very difficult for asylum seekers to be eligible for the programs pushed by the U.S. and Mexican governments. 

Requirements such as the need for a “sponsor” – a family member or acquaintance who signs up to provide financial assistance in the U.S. or traveling by air are demands inaccessible for thousands of impoverished migrants, making them ineligible for Biden’s program. 

Furthermore, the influx of migrants staying in Mexico has flooded the current migratory system of the country.

In early January, over 2,000 migrants stormed into the offices of COMAR in Tapachula, Chiapas, a Mexican city that borders Guatemala. For weeks, the migrants, mostly Haitian nationals, demanded authorities give them provisional documentation to help them transit through Mexico safely without getting harrassed by Mexican military and migration officers. 

Asylum seekers appear trapped between the stringent migration policies of the U.S. and the harrowing conditions in Mexico, which brutalize migrants looking to get across the northern border. 

Human Rights First has documented 13,480 cases of violence against migrants expelled into Mexico under Title 42 during the Biden administration, including murder, torture, kidnap, and rape.