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.