Mexico deported more than twice as many illegal immigrants from Central America in the first five months of this year than it did over the same period in 2017, according to migration statistics released Thursday.
From January through May, Mexican authorities returned a total of 40,895 migrants from four countries — Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua — through checkpoints at the country’s southern border, reports El Universal, citing Guatemalan immigration authorities. That was more than double the 15,979 Central American migrants deported from Mexico into Guatemala in the first five months of 2017.
About 18,800 of the deportees were from Honduras and 18,000 were from Guatemala, according to the data. Another 3,800 were from El Salvador and just under 250 were from Nicaragua.
The figures show that Mexico has adjusted its deportation efforts to match the volume of illegal immigration across its southern border. Deportations spiked in 2015, declined in 2016 and 2017, and have begun to rise once again this year. The pattern matches the flow of illegal immigration from Central America into the U.S., which also surged in the last few years of the Obama administration, fell in Trump’s first year, and has climbed in the first half of 2018.
President Donald Trump has been highly critical of Mexico’s response to illegal immigration through its territory and across the southwest border. In a cabinet meeting Wednesday, he accused the Mexican government of facilitating the passage of migrants despite having much stronger immigration laws than the U.S.
“They can keep people out of Mexico. You have a 2,000-mile journey up Mexico,” Trump said. “They walk through Mexico like it’s walking through Central Park.”
“It’s ridiculous,” the president went on to say. “Mexico does nothing for us.”
Trump’s latest broadside against Mexico came amid controversy over the separation of migrant families at the southwest border, a result of the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal border crossings. Trump says such strict enforcement is necessary in part because of the Mexican government’s unwillingness to stop the northward flow of migrants.
But Mexico’s deportation record in recent years reflects a hard-nosed approach to illegal immigration that in many way mirrors Trump’s own crackdown. Since implementing its Southern Border Plan in 2014, Mexico has deported more than 500,000 illegal immigrants from Central America, more than the U.S. has sent back over the same time period.
Ironically, the Mexican government now faces the same kind of criticisms from immigration activists as those that have been leveled at the Trump administration. Even though they receive less international attention, Mexico’s immigration enforcement policies are tougher than Trump’s, César Cañaveral, a Catholic priest in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, told NPR in May.
“Today the Mexican government is hunting migrants without sympathy, even though the exact same thing is happening to Mexicans at the U.S. border,” he said. “The border security measures here in Chiapas are even harsher than on the U.S.-Mexico border.”
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