For U.S.-bound Central American migrants, better to stay in Mexico than be sent home

Sunday, June 16, 2019
By Paul Martin

Hugh Bronstein
JUNE 15, 2019

TAPACHULA, Mexico (Reuters) – Many of the Central Americans who lined up for papers at an asylum office in southern Mexico said they could abandon plans to reach the United States and remain in Mexico if U.S. President Donald Trump clamps down further on migration.

Mexico is ramping up security on its southern border with Guatemala as part of an agreement with Washington after Trump threatened to impose tariffs on Mexican goods if the government did not stem the flow of migrants reaching the United States.

As part of that effort, Mexico has pledged to deploy 6,000 National Guard members along the border. Reuters reporters in Tapachula, a city near the frontier visited by many migrants, saw no evidence of that deployment there on Saturday.

Under U.S. pressure, Mexico has agreed to expand a program started in January that forces migrants to wait in Mexico for the outcome of their U.S. asylum claims. The United States began accelerating returns of asylum seekers to Mexico on Thursday.

In addition, if Mexico does not reduce immigration flows by mid-July, it could become a “safe third country” where asylum seekers must seek refuge instead of in the United States.

In the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, the overburdened COMAR refugee office in Tapachula has seen a surge of asylum seekers. It is one of only three such offices in the country.

People waiting in line outside the office said they would take their chances in Mexico if their only other choice was to return to violence-plagued Central America.

Thousands of families have fled poverty and rampant crime in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala in the past year, making their way through Mexico to the United States.

“If we have no other option then yes, we could remain in Mexico because we really cannot go back to Honduras,” said Dagoberto, 34, waiting in line in the blazing midday sun on Friday with his partner, Jose.

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