U.S. and Mexico: Processing Asylum Claims

So far, a renewed surge in unaccompanied minors and family units coming from Central America – like that of last year – has not materialized. The reason appears to be because Mexico has upped enforcement of its border with Guatemala. According to an Associated Press article of June 18, Mexico apprehended nearly 93,000 illegal entrants from October 2014 to April 2015 – many more than the about 70,200 “Other than Mexican” (mostly Central Americans) apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol over the same period.

Unlike in the United States, a request for asylum results in summary treatment in Mexico and rarely succeeds in forestalling deportation. The data suggest that the apprehended Central Americans are aware of that so they do not often request asylum there. The AP report notes that for the most recent nine-month period, there were 1,525 asylum requests to the Mexican authorities, and 247 were granted. By comparison, in the United States there were 41,920 asylum requests by Central Americans in 2014 and nearly half of all requests were granted while most of the other cases simply failed to show up for a hearing on their request.

The implication of the discrepancy between the frequency of asylum requests between the two countries is that the illegal migrants from Central America are not really seeking protection, but rather are simply seeking a new life in the United States and using a claim to asylum in that quest.

It is unlikely that there is a difference between the Central Americans apprehended in Mexico and in the United States that would explain the vast difference in the rate of asylum grants between the two countries. That suggests that the criteria for granting asylum differ between the two countries. Asylum requests in the United States by Central Americans reportedly focus on the threat of violence in the home country and the inability of the local government to protect the public. It seems likely that the Mexican officials are more skeptical of those claims. With a similar cultural background and greater proximity to Central America, the Mexican authorities may be better able to assess the veracity of asylum claims than are the U.S. authorities.

With the current virtual abandonment of immigration enforcement against illegal immigration by the Obama administration, it is unlikely that the U.S. asylum adjudication process might take a lesson from the Mexican adjudication process. It is, therefore, important that the U.S. continue to support the Mexican effort to stem the flow of Central Americans across its territory on the way to the United States.

About Author


Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. avatar

    Secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws just like Mexico does. Stand in line follow the rules and wait your turn. We know that under Obama this is just a dream. We need to complete the double fence,put more agents on the line and let them do their job

  2. avatar
    Not Politically Correct on

    Mexico is great about securing their own southern border but harangue and harass us for any attempts to secure ours.

  3. avatar
    Raymond Babcock on

    Deport the illegal immigrant. A price can not be fixed for law and order. Once we start the process of deport. A great deal self deport. Also most of these people would not make the journey.

    • avatar

      I totally agree, Raymond. I never thought I’d be saying this but, Let’s be more like Mexico, on immigration anyway.

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  5. avatar

    Our government needs to put an annual numerical limit on the number of legitimate asylum cases our country can accept. How many millions and millions of people living in chaotic, violent Third World countries with oppressive governments could even legitimately qualify for asylum in our country? We cannot accept every person who sets foot in our country who qualifies for asylum, unless we want our entire country overrun with the world’s poor.

    I am sorry there are hundreds and hundreds of millions of people living in horrible conditions around the world, but the solution is not to bring everyone with problems in the world into our country. Our country is on a financial, economic, and environmentally unsustainable trajectory and if we continue along this path we will be the next people seeking asylum from the bankrupt Third World country the US will become.

    • avatar

      In California we’re in a drought. They have us rationing water to an extremely low level of usage but, I feel the problem is the Extreme overpopulation problem they’ve allowed to take place in this state, more than it is the lack of water. When you have more people than you can provide the basic necessities to, you’ve created a Major problem for Everyone. They’re telling us not to shower every day; pull out lawns and plant cactus instead. Now, in the summer months, they’re telling us to not use electricity until after 7pm. Overpopulation is the problem, California. Wake up!