publicidad
Kevin García, 19, of Comayagua, Honduras, takes a break from sorting donations at a shelter in Mexico City.

As path to U.S. border gets tougher, more Central Americans seek asylum in Mexico

As path to U.S. border gets tougher, more Central Americans seek asylum in Mexico

In the first nine months of 2016, over 4,000 Hondurans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Nicaraguans opened asylum cases in Mexico, authorities note. That's more than the total number of applicants from 2010 to 2014.

Kevin García, 19, of Comayagua, Honduras, takes a break from sorting don...
Kevin García, 19, of Comayagua, Honduras, takes a break from sorting donations at a shelter in Mexico City.

MEXICO CITY – Mario Rodríguez, 20, is sorting donations at the Mexico City migrant shelter where he lives: toothpaste, pens and pencils, t-shirts. Friendly but soft-spoken, he wears a flat-brim cap, t-shirt and sweatpants.

Rodríguez arrived in the city just a week ago, after fleeing violence in his hometown in the Honduran state of Olancho.

A few months ago, a factory co-worker became angry because Rodríguez had access to the company truck. The man then confronted Rodríguez with a pistol, saying, “Today is the day I’m going to kill you.”

Eventually the aggressor backed down, but Rodríguez did not want to return to work. He feared reporting the incident to the police, and worried the man belonged to a gang. Soon after, Rodríguez joined a few acquaintances in the capital, Tegucigalpa, and they headed north towards Mexico.

Now, Rodríguez is one of a dozen Central American youth currently living at a protection center for adolescent migrants (Ceproiac). He does not plan to continue north. Instead, he is exploring legal options to stay in Mexico.

Mexico has long been a country of transit for Central American migrants seeking to reach the United States; more than 200,000 are estimated to pass through each year. But in recent years, as the journey through Mexico to the U.S. border has become more costly and dangerous, and as the situation in Central America has worsened, Mexico has also become a destination.

“I know it isn’t safe to go north to cross the border,” Rodríguez explained, while resting at the shelter on his day off from a painting job downtown. “Meanwhile I have the option to stay here and get papers.”

publicidad

Ceproiac opened in Fall 2015, in Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, and relocated to Mexico City in July of this year. It serves Guatemalans, Hondurans, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans in their teens or early 20s who are seeking asylum or humanitarian protection in Mexico.

A poster at the Ceporiac shelter in Oaxaca informs residents of their ri...
A poster at the Ceporiac shelter in Oaxaca informs residents of their rights in Mexico

Asylum cases soar

Comar, the Mexican Commission in Support of Refugees, reported that in the first nine months of 2016, 4,032 Hondurans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Nicaraguans opened asylum cases in Mexico, more than the total number of applicants from 2010 to 2014. While less than a third win their cases, that average has been creeping upward.

The number of unaccompanied minors from Central America seeking refugee status in Mexico is also soaring, with 175 petitions in 2016 through the end of September, compared to 55 in all of 2013 – a three-fold increase.

Jorge Ríos, a lawyer at Sin Fronteras (Without Borders), a Mexico City-based non-profit that supports asylum and refugee seekers, attributes the increase to fear of notorious Central American gangs such as the Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13) and the 18th St, Barrio 18), better known as maras, as well as hardened immigration enforcement in Mexico.

publicidad

“We used to mostly see men traveling alone through Mexico, but now it’s whole families who come. The gangs used to just threaten and target the head of household, but they’re increasingly targeting children,” he said.

Traveling north, Rodriguez was robbed once in Guatemala and twice in Chiapas. He briefly rode the famous freight train, known as the 'Bestia,' and walked along its tracks for five days, before making it to Veracruz and then Mexico City.

Harsher border enforcement

During the 2014 “border crisis,” when unprecedented numbers of women and children arrived on the U.S.-Mexico border, Washington pressured Mexico to increase immigration enforcement. President Enrique Peña Nieto announced “The Southern Border Plan” in June 2014, which ramped up immigration detentions and deportations throughout Mexico to stem the flow of Central Americans reaching the U.S. border.

The border plan has worked.

Detentions are up in Mexico, and arrivals of women and children on the U.S. border are down. Apprehensions of Central American migrants in Mexico jumped 71 percent between July 2014 and June 2015 over the same period in the previous year.

However, the plan has pushed migrants on to more clandestine routes, and in turn coyotes have upped their rates, charging more than $7,000 to cross Mexico from the border with Guatemala.

In addition to multiple robberies, Rodríguez saw first-hand how immigration authorities are clamping down across southern Mexico. In Chiapas, immigration agents surprised him and his traveling companions along the tracks of the Bestia.

publicidad


“One of them was so close to catching me, he grabbed my backpack. But I managed to outrun him,” he said.

He had two more close-calls with immigration agents before reaching Veracruz, where the women of the “Las Patronas” organization, known for feeding migrants who pass through the town of the same name, recommended he head to Ceproiac in Mexico City.

Priest Alejandro Solalinde speaks at the inauguration of Ceporiac in Mex...
Priest Alejandro Solalinde speaks at the inauguration of Ceporiac in Mexico City in July. Ceporiac is a sister organization of the Brothers in the Journey shelter in Ixtepec, Oaxaca, which Solalinde founded in 2007.

A safe haven

Many Central Americans are not aware that they have the right to seek asylum until migrant shelter staff or volunteers inform them. While immigration authorities are legally obligated to inform migrants of their rights when they are detained, agents often neglect to inform detainees, or actively discourage them from applying for asylum.

Ceproiac is a sister organization of the Brothers in the Journey shelter in Ixtepec, Oaxaca, which Priest Alejandro Solalinde founded in 2007. After the inception of the Southern Border Plan, teenagers and young adults who faced persecution by the maras in their home countries were staying in Ixtepec for months at a time. Unable to continue north due to immigration raids on La Bestia, more tried to regularize their immigration status in Mexico.

Ceproiac was founded to meet this need, and opened its doors in Oaxaca’s capital in September 2015, under the direction of Carlos Moriano, a Spanish phycologist.

publicidad

Between September 2015 and July 2016, six Ceproiac residents received refugee status. Three more currently have their cases under revision. Seven others received humanitarian visas, which grant them residency in Mexico for one year and are subject to renewal. Humanitarian visas are available to migrants who may not qualify for asylum, but were victims of or witnesses to crimes in Mexico.

“These youths are fleeing their countries, in some cases literally under fire,” Moriano said in an interview with Univision in Oaxaca. “It’s a miracle some of them made it out.”

He explained that many teenage boys are forced to join the maras but reach a breaking point and decide to escape. “For some of them, it was the moment a gang leader ordered them to kill someone,” Moriano said.

In March, Univision interviewed youth staying at the shelter in Oaxaca, including a 17-year-old who asked not to be identified by name due to the threats against him in El Salvador.

Just two weeks earlier his brother had been murdered in Sonsonate, El Salvador. Before that, it was a cousin who had been killed.

“They (MS 13 members) had given me a certain number of days before they’d kill me,” he said. “I left to stay alive, to escape the gangs. It wasn’t my idea to go to the United States.”

He was waiting for the outcome of his asylum application.

“I can’t go back, the gangs and the police dominate El Salvador. The police even work with the gangs,” he said.

Donations to Ceporiac include a note of well-wishes to the shelter's...
Donations to Ceporiac include a note of well-wishes to the shelter's residents.

A “protection crisis”

The Washington Office on Latin America reports that the Southern Border Plan has increased immigration enforcement in Mexico, without increasing the capacity to screen whether detained migrants face danger at home if they are deported. Facing increasing violence, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) has called for urgent action and said Central Americans face a “protection crisis.”

The Attorney General’s Office for the Protection of Children and Adolescents is charged with ensuring unaccompanied minors are not held in immigration detention, though Ríos says enforcement is lax.

“Legally it’s very difficult for unaccompanied minors to regularize their immigration status without signatures and paperwork from their parents. So many prefer to be deported, and try to cross again without getting detained.”

publicidad

The difficulty in applying for asylum traces back to Mexico's overburdened refugee commission, Comar. In the first nine months of 2016, 5,944 people from around the world opened asylum cases in Mexico, with 3,197 completing the application process. Comar has roughly 40 employees to process these applicants.

Ríos said the overload creates systematic problems and ill-informed asylum resolutions. For example, while Comar is required by law to interview asylum seekers in person, many interviews are carried out over the phone.

Asylum applicants must open their case within 30 days of entering Mexican territory. Comar has 45 business days to resolve each case and two weeks to notify the applicant, which means the process can drag out to nine to eleven weeks.

At the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants in New York on September 19, Enrique Peña Nieto committed to increase Comar personnel by 80 percent.

Comar, a subsidiary of the Interior Secretary, declined an interview request for this story.

Many youth at the Mexico City shelter have opted to apply for a humanitarian visa, instead of asylum. The process is faster, and they have a higher rate of success. Since 2010, only about 28 percent of close to 13,000 Central American applicants have been granted refugee status. However, the humanitarian visa only lasts a year before it must be renewed.

“There are applicants who don’t have money to buy food while they wait [for asylum]. People have told us they walk to the Comar office because they don’t have money for metro fare,” said Ríos.

publicidad

About 45% of Central Americans who opened cases in 2016 abandoned them, often due to limited economic resources to support themselves during the process, or lack of legal advising.

Mario Rodríguez, 20, of Olancho, Honduras, is staying at Ceporiac in Mex...
Mario Rodríguez, 20, of Olancho, Honduras, is staying at Ceporiac in Mexico City.

The struggle to integrate

Even Central Americans who receive asylum face complex problems in making a home for themselves in Mexico. This is especially true for the young people at Ceproiac, many of whom fled alone to Mexico and must support family members back home.

Central Americans, even if they have residency, are often paid less than Mexicans, and many report difficulties in renting apartments and accessing governmental services.

Others are victims of crimes in Mexico. A Honduran youth who received asylum while living at the shelter in Oaxaca was robbed by police officers in his working-class neighborhood in Mexico City. It was a lengthy and costly process to have his immigration I.D. card replaced.

Some who receive humanitarian visas or refugee status later decide to try and cross into the U.S. because they cannot gain a foothold in Mexico, or to seek out family.

publicidad

Rodriguez said he is undecided whether to pursue asylum or a humanitarian visa. With the painting job he secured downtown, he will be able to support himself while he waits out the legal process.

“In general Mexicans have treated me well, and I’m planning to stay,” he said.

publicidad
publicidad
Presidents don't usually pardon criminals until they have been sentenced or have at least expressed some regret, but this was not the case with Arpaio, who spoke to Univision News two weeks after being forgiven by his ally, Donald Trump.
During a meeting in the Oval office Friday, the president was asked by reporters about the future of DACA, to which he responded that a decision was coming soon. "We love the dreamers, we love everyone," he added.
Nilsa Huete is an undocumented Honduran immigrant living in Key West, Florida. In the last five months, five of her family members have been arrested by agents from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. Now she’s fighting against the deportation of her daughter and brother.
The former Arizona sheriff pardoned by President Trump is one of the most unpopular figures in the Hispanic community. For 24 years he was sheriff of the fourth largest county in the country and was convicted in July 2017 of ignoring a court order to stop his officers from racial profiling of Hispanics.
The former Republican presidential candidate says a Senate immigration proposal that would cut immigration in half is flawed, but he backs idea of merit-based points system.
The footage shows a man wearing a badge, apparently from the local sheriff’s department, and claiming to be bail bonds agent. A lawyer then rebukes and questions his authority.
Maty Muy, a Guatemalan immigrant, went to renew her work permit at an ICE office and ended up facing a nightmare. Authorities placed a GPS monitor on her ankle and sent her husband to a detention facility. Now, she has taken over the family business – a tire and auto repair shop – while facing deportation.
This is what Greek artist Eleni means when she speaks about the power of the voice. She improvises a sing-along with a group of immigrants, refugees and allies in Boston's Urbano Project and the result was just beautiful.
Eleni Arapoglou uses new sounds and rhythms to preserve her roots. Eleni is part of the U-Lab 'Immigrant Sounds' sessions that celebrate World Refugee Day and Immigrant Heritage Month.
There has always been movement of people, and as we commemorate World Refugee Day on June 20th a group of musicians, activists and community members got together at The Urbano Project​ in Boston to share their experiences and reflect on the diversity that makes up American society: "The direction of where the world is going is encouraging us all, almost forcing us all, to break down those walls."
La cantante Eleni interpreta 'Milo mou kai mantarini', grabada en exclusiva para U-LAB Music como parte de las sesiones 'Immigrant Sounds' en honor al Mes de la Herencia del Inmigrante y al Día Mundial del Refugiado. Featuring Vasilis Kostas en el laúd.
Artist Nora Valdez and youth in the Boston community are sharing their stories one suitcase at a time at The Urbano Project. At U-LAB Music we documented their process as part of our 'Immigrant Sounds' series.
Nestor Duarte was driving his car in Key West, Florida, when Monroe sheriff deputy David Lariz pulled him over and asked for his papers. Lariz is the same officer who recently asked a Honduran man who had been hit by a car if he was "illegal."
Mimi Martinez, 30, arrived to the United States when she was five years old. Her mom stayed behind in Mexico. Now a legal resident, she was recently able to travel to see her mother in Mexico after 25 years.
Nelson Denis, author of 'War Against All Puerto Ricans,' details how the commonwealth's 119-year-long association with the U.S. has produced total economic and governing dependence. With over $70 billion in crushing debt, Puerto Rico's governor turned to the courts on Wednesday to put certain debts before a federal bankruptcy court.
We traveled to Ciudad Juárez to see if hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Mexican maquiladora industry would return to the United States if Trump were to modify or abandon the NAFTA free trade agreement, as his government is considering. A border tax would have serious consequences in Mexican cities.
Finalizados cinco de los ocho prototipos para construir el muro de Trump
Seis compañías constructoras fueron seleccionadas para construirlos. Sus alturas y anchos son imponentes; hay al menos dos de concreto y uno de metal.
John Kelly habría pedido información de los peores casos de indocumentados para justificar las redadas, según un medio de comunicación
Cuando Kelly era secretario de Seguridad Nacional habría pedido a los jefes de su departamento que recopilaran los casos más graves de indocumentados detenidos, supuestamente tildarlos de delincuentes y justificar las redadas de ICE. La información la publicó The Intercept, pero el director de ICE la negó.
La Dra. Nancy ve a Jomari Goyso como "un niño malcriado"
Esta es la conversación que la Dra. Nancy Álvarez tuvo directamente con Jomari Goyso, después de analizar la conducta que el presentador tuvo ante de las cámaras de Despierta América.
publicidad
Cáncer de seno, una enfermedad que sigue cobrando miles de vidas en los Estados Unidos
Cerca de 250,000 mujeres han sido diagnosticadas con cáncer de seno en los Estados Unidos, este tipo de cáncer es el más común entre las mujeres. Expertos médicos insisten en la importancia de los controles para lograr una detección temprana para poder controlarlo.
Esta compañía trabaja arduamente para apoyar y acompañar a los Astros en su camino por un cupo en la serie mundial
La empresa encargada de crear las prendas con los diferentes logotipos de los Astros trabaja a toda máquina para poder cumplir con la alta demanda por el gran papel que está desempeñando el reconocido equipo.
Lamborghini LM002, la madre de las SUV’s de lujo
Ni la Lamborghini Urus, ni la Maserati Levante o la Jaguar F-Pace son las primeras camionetas de súper lujo. La Lamborghini LM002 es la verdadera pionera de este nicho y antepasado de su próximo SUV, el Urus.
Alcalde de Hialeah pide en la Comisión de Miami Dade investigar al Comité de Ética
El mandatario Carlos Hernández manifestó que el grupo liderado por Joseph Centorino ha malgastado fondos públicos y que encuentra "extraño" el seminario sobre cómo hacer negocios con Cuba organizado por la entidad que acusa.
Keylor Navas, tras el empate ante el Tottenham: “Salgo contento porque pude ayudar al equipo”
El portero del Real Madrid salió figura en el Bernabéu, luego de salvar el arco merengue en el juego de Champions League contra el equipo inglés. “Fue una noche que se pudo colaborar”, cerró.
¡Top 5 en la historia del clásico de clásicos!
Te presentamos los 5 mejores goles que se han vivido a lo largo de clásico del futbol mexicano.
Marcelo, tras el 1-1 de Real Madrid y Tottenham: “No sé qué nos está pasando en casa”
El lateral del equipo español destacó la actuación de los porteros de ambos equipos en el partido de Champions y aseguró que el haber cedido puntos en el Bernabéu “no es para preocuparse tanto”.
José Rivas, fiel al Veracruz previo al juego ante Tigres: “Ahora me entrego a estos colores”
El defensa de los Tiburones habló del juego de visita contra su exequipo. Y confesó que sería “algo lindo y especial” tener la oportunidad de enfrentarlos y poder "llevarnos los tres puntos".