Mexico Touts 39 Percent Reduction in Central American Migrants Traveling through to U.S.

A Mexican soldier atop a military vehicle during an operation to inhibit migrants to cross illegally into the United States, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico June 16, 2019. (Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)

Mexico announced Tuesday that there has been a 39 percent reduction in the number of Central American migrants passing through the country on their way to the U.S.

The number of migrants traversing Mexico to reach the southern border has fallen from 144,278 in May to 87,648 thus far in July, foreign-relations secretary Marcelo Ebrard told the Associated Press.

Ebrard credited Mexico’s increased enforcement efforts, which were prompted by President Trump’s June tariff threat, with the decline in migrant traffic. Economic aid designed to spur job creation in Central American countries has also played a role, he said.

Mexican authorities have struggled to accommodate the thousands of U.S. asylum-seekers who have been returned to Mexico while their claims are being adjudicated. Those migrants have been made to wait on the Mexican side of the border under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, which were implemented earlier this year to alleviate overcrowding in detention facilities on the border.

Ebrard said his government is not in a position to house all of the asylum-seekers who have clustered in Mexican border towns, but said it has made an effort to house families.

“Who is offered shelter? The ones who need it, typically families,” he said. “But not everybody is asking for it. I would say that more than half aren’t asking for it.”

The Trump administration implemented a new policy earlier this month, declaring Mexico a “safe third country” to which all migrants who pass through must apply for refugee status before applying for asylum in the U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, while announcing the policy, said it would stop “forum shopping by economic migrants and those who seek to exploit our asylum system to obtain entry to the United States—while ensuring that no one is removed from the United States who is more likely than not to be tortured or persecuted on account of a protected ground.”

Currently, the U.S. only has a “safe third country” agreement with Canada and administration officials have thus far been rebuffed in their efforts to secure a similar arrangement with Mexico. Administration officials are also in the process of negotiating such an agreement with a coalition of Central American nations.

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