Since 2014, the U.S. has seen a significant change in who is arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border and for the first time that year, U.S. authorities reported detaining more non-Mexicans than Mexicans at the southern border. Additionally, there has been a shift in who is migrating, with fewer single males looking for economic opportunities and more individuals and family units fleeing their home countries in search of protection. Although most non-Mexicans detained at the border are Central Americans, in 2020, the U.S. began to see more migrants from Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, Cuba, and a large number of Haitians, most of whom left their country several years ago, who are now migrating from Brazil, Chile and other countries due to the lack of work in the face of the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 and a persistent context of racism and discrimination against them.
It is clear that we are experiencing a significant change in regional migration flows. However, despite these changes and President Joe Biden’s many campaign promises to implement a more human rights based approach at the border and working to restore access to asylum at the border, his administration has continued to prioritize detaining and discouraging migrants from making their way to the U.S.
The López Obrador government has become complicit with the immigration policies of the US government, both during the Trump presidency and under Biden. Mexico agreed to receive asylum seekers under the “Remain in Mexico” program, without ensuring their housing and access to other services in Mexico and without taking measures to guarantee their protection in the country (at least 1,500 of them were victims of crimes such as kidnapping, robbery, and rape while in Mexico). The Mexican government also accepted and continues to accept a large number of non-Mexican migrants expelled under Title 42.
Although for the moment the governments of the United States and Mexico have opted for a response to migration flows focused on detention and deportation, this should not be the case. There are several opportunities for expanded cooperation to address regional migration flows and for the Mexican government to refuse to be a counterpart in policies that violate international law. Read more about what a new framework for cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico should look like here.