Report: Drop in Child Refugee Arrivals in U.S. Due to Increased Mexican Apprehensions

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Fewer children are arrested coming into the United States because they are now being arrested in Mexico.
Fewer children are arrested coming into the United States because they are now being arrested in Mexico.

A new study from the Migration Policy Institute reinforces research that shows that the drop in new arrivals of child refugees from Central America at the U.S. border is less a function of improved conditions in those countries and more a result of increased apprehensions of the children by the Mexican government. From the report’s summary:

The United States and Mexico have apprehended nearly 1 million Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Honduran migrants since 2010, deporting more than 800,000 of them, including more than 40,000 children. While the United States led in pace and number of apprehensions of Central Americans in 2010-2014, Mexico has since pulled ahead, apprehending one-third more adults and children than the United States so far this year.

Amid increasingly muscular enforcement by Mexico, U.S. apprehensions of Central Americans for fiscal 2015 to date have fallen by more than half compared to the prior year. Many of those who previously would have made it to the U.S. border and been apprehended by the Border Patrol now are being intercepted by Mexican authorities.

The findings are contained in a new Migration Policy Institute (MPI) report, Migrants Deported from the United States and Mexico to the Northern Triangle: A Statistical and Socioeconomic Profile, which suggests that the increased Mexican enforcement capacity is reshaping regional dynamics and perhaps ushering in changes to long-lasting trends in regional apprehensions.

“The main force at play in the region today with respect to immigration enforcement is the ‘squeezing of the balloon’,” said Doris Meissner, director of MPI’s U.S. immigration policy program and co-director of MPI’s Regional Migration Study Group, which produced the report. “To succeed, responses to regional migration dynamics must move beyond shifting the flows and instead begin deflating the pressures that generate them.”

To achieve a more comprehensive policy, the report suggests that the United States and Mexico, working with Central America, should design migration policies with workable enforcement and humanitarian protection as well as development policies that address poor standards of living, improve citizen security in the Northern Triangle and facilitate the re-integration of deportees.

While the U.S. public and policymakers focused intensely in 2014 on the dramatic increase in unaccompanied minor flows, the MPI researchers find that Mexico has deported nearly 80 percent of the Central American minors apprehended by both countries since 2010. Mexico’s deportations as a share of apprehensions rate also greatly exceeds that of the United States: for every 100 minors apprehended in Mexico in 2014, 77 were deported, compared to three out of 100 for those apprehended in the United States.


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