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Immigration

Mexican Nationals Now Comprise Majority of Asylum Seekers on Southern Border

Migrants from Central America walk on a highway during their journey towards the United States, in Mexico, June 5, 2019. (Jose Torres/Reuters)

The number of Mexican nationals seeking asylum in the U.S. has risen dramatically over the last year as the number of Central American asylum seekers has fallen as a result of Trump administration policies designed to stem the flow of migrants.

A study released last month by researchers at the University of Texas and UC San Diego found that over half of all asylum seekers on the southern border are now Mexicans, predominantly coming from the states of Guerrero, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Michoacán, Zacatecas, and Veracruz.

Speaking with the Los Angeles Times, many pointed to cartel violence as the primary reason to seek asylum. Others referenced the Central American caravans that made headlines for passing through Mexico on the way to the U.S. border.

Since Mexicans are exempt from the “Remain in Mexico” policy that constrains the number of central American asylum seekers, U.S. authorities have adopted a policy known as “metering” which admits only a relatively small number of of Mexican asylum seekers each day. Last week, Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, announced that Mexican nationals seeking asylum in the United States could be moved to Guatemala rather than being allowed to wait in the United States for their asylum claims to be adjudicated.

The White House has been locked in a ongoing court battle over policies to limit the amount of asylum seekers, including requiring that migrants first apply for refugee status in Mexico, or whatever country they enter after leaving home, before seeking asylum in the U.S. The remain in Mexico policy has also been met with legal challenges.

The Ninth Circuit is currently hearing arguments regarding the constitutionality of the orders, after the Supreme Court ruled in September that the remain in Mexico policy can remain in effect as legal challenges progress.

More than 300,000 Central Americans entered Mexico illegally last year, 80 percent of whom were headed for the U.S. border, according to Mexico’s interior minister, Olga Sánchez Cordero. The southern border has been overwhelmed this year with asylum applicants though numbers have waned in recent months following highs in the spring.

Former acting DHS secretary Kevin McAleenan said in August that border crossings declined over the summer, with apprehensions dropping 43 percent since May, when arrests between ports of entry at the southern border increased for the fourth straight month to 132,887.

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