Adam Isacson

Still trying to understand Latin America, my own country, and why so few consequences are intended. These views are not necessarily my employer’s.

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Mexico

Asylum requests are increasing again in Mexico’s system

13,217 migrants applied for asylum in Mexico’s system in November 2022, the most in a month since November 2021, according to the Mexican government’s Refugee Aid Commission (COMAR). November’s asylum requests increased 15 percent over October, and 47 percent over September.

From October to November, COMAR received the largest increase in applications from citizens of Venezuela—27 percent—though the number of Venezuelan applicants was in second place behind that of citizens of Honduras. Venezuela’s applications almost certainly increased because, after the U.S. and Mexican governments began applying Title 42 and expelling Venezuelans into Mexico on October 12, Venezuelan citizens could no longer seek protection in the United States.

All nationalities measured increases in asylum applications from October to November:

  • Venezuela: +27%
  • Haiti: +17%
  • Dominican Republic: +14%
  • Colombia: +12%
  • Honduras: +12%
  • El Salvador: +12%
  • Others: +12%
  • Brazil: +12%
  • Guatemala: +12%
  • Cuba: +11%
  • Nicaragua: +5%

Despite what you hear from some U.S. politicians and media outlets, the Americas’ ongoing migration event is not just a US-Mexico border phenomenon. People are fleeing everywhere. Colombia and others are assimilating millions of Venezuelans. Costa Rica is doing the same with Nicaraguans. And here’s Mexico.

Mexico’s use of the military for migration missions

In the past month or two, Mexico again increased the number of soldiers, marines, and national guardsmen assigned to border and migration duties. The most recent count, as of November 21, was 31,777 individual military personnel.

The numbers come from “security reports” periodically presented at President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s morning press conferences, and uploaded to the Mexican Presidency’s website:

Coca in Mexico

During the López Obrador government (since December 2018), Mexican forces have eradicated 33.6 hectares of coca, according to the country’s presidency.

(Colombia, the most energetic eradicator, reported destroying 103,000 hectares in 2021 and nearly 60,000 in 2022 through October.)

Mexico, in October, set a new record for most migrants apprehended in a month

The Mexican Interior Department just updated its migration statistics for October 2022. It took them longer than usual, and the reason could be that October 2022 shattered Mexico’s record for migrants apprehended in a month.

Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) took 52,262 people into custody over those 31 days. INM’s average since 2013 is 14,895 migrant apprehensions per month.

42 percent of migrants apprehended in Mexico last month were citizens of Venezuela. Of 2022’s top eight countries, plus “all others,” the rates of increase from January to October were:

  • Ecuador 1478%
  • Venezuela 808%
  • Colombia 335%
  • Nicaragua 156%
  • Other countries 119%
  • Cuba 47%
  • El Salvador 37%
  • Honduras -6%
  • Guatemala -26%

Migration in Mexico appears to be record-breaking

The Mexican government’s record for most migrants apprehended in a month, set in September 2021, is 46,370. That’s 1,546 migrants per day.

According to a November 21 release from Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM), Mexican authorities apprehended 16,096 migrants between November 17 and 20. That’s 4,024 migrants per day, from 46 countries.

Mexico hasn’t reported October 2022 migration data yet, but in September, the INM apprehended 41,915 migrants: 1,397 per day.


Mexico’s migrant apprehensions through September.

As nearly all of this migration is U.S.-bound, it’s reasonable to expect a further increase in migration at the U.S.-Mexico border for the month of November.

Mexico’s suspicious aircraft detections point to Venezuela

This is from the Mexican Presidency’s latest security report (October 20, page 61). It looks like Zulia, Venezuela has been the main jumping-off point for aircraft suspected of smuggling drugs toward Mexico.

Venezuela meanwhile claims to have destroyed 37 suspect aircraft so far this year:

Busy month for Mexico’s asylum system

Of 2022’s first 10 months, October was second only to March in the number of migrants who applied for asylum in Mexico. The Mexican government’s Refugee Aid Commission (COMAR) received 11,391 requests for protection during October.

The most came from Honduras, Mexico’s number-one asylum-seeking country of citizenship so far in 2022 (3,077 in October), followed by Haiti (third overall in 2022, 1,865 asylum seekers in October), Cuba (second in 2022, 1,674 in October), and Venezuela (fourth in 2022, 1,549 in October). The largest percentage increases in asylum seekers’ countries of citizenship from September to October were those from Venezuela (18%), Guatemala (16.3%), Haiti (16.0%), and Colombia (15%).

It is perhaps unsurprising that Venezuela saw the largest monthly percentage growth in asylum seekers. U.S. border authorities expelled about 6,000 Venezuelan migrants back into Mexico, without affording them a chance to ask for U.S. asylum, under the Title 42 expansion arrangement that the U.S. and Mexico announced on October 12. That means an increased population of Venezuelan citizens stranded in Mexico, and thus more asylum applicants.

COMAR reports approving 93 percent of Venezuelan citizens’ asylum applications this year. That exceeds the approval rate of all other reported nationalities, including Honduras (90%), El Salvador (89%), Cuba (50%), and Haiti (20%).

Graphics on organized crime in Mexico

El Heraldo de Chihuahua published this map of organized crime dominance and territorial conflict along the U.S.-Mexico border in the state of Chihuahua, which extends from New Mexico to Texas’s Big Bend National Park. It names five criminal groups affiliated with two larger “cartels” (Sinaloa and the regional/local Juárez Cartel). The article’s text mentions seven local criminal groups. It does not mention the large and growing Jalisco Cartel.

Tijuana’s Revista Zeta, which has a long record of courageous reporting on organized crime in Mexico, published this table of “Cartels Recognized by the Attorney-General’s Office (FGR),” attempting to show which local criminal groups (“criminal cells”) are affiliated with which larger national cartels. Like the El Heraldo map, this table shows the Sinaloa (Pacífico) and Juárez (Carrillo Fuentes) cartels active in Chihuahua, naming four local criminal groups.

The table shows the remarkable fragmentation of criminal groups that has resulted from years of “mano dura” and “high-value targeting” strategies, which have weakened or divided cartel leaderships but done little to prevent vast territories from being fertile ground for organized crime.

Mexico’s asylum requests

For the month of August, Mexico’s refugee agency (Mexican Refugee Aid Commission, COMAR) reported receiving its largest number of asylum applications since March. 10,763 people applied for asylum in Mexico last month, boosting COMAR’s annual total to 77,786—already its second-largest asylum total ever. (COMAR received nearly 130,000 applications last year.)

The countries whose migrants have sought asylum in Mexico over 3,000 times in 2022 so far are, from most to least: Honduras, Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Applications from Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, and “other countries” already exceed their 2021 full-year totals.

Migrants apprehended in Mexico in July

Mexican migration authorities apprehended their fourth largest-ever monthly total of undocumented migrants in July, according to data posted in late August.

For the first time, fully half of those apprehended were not from Central America’s so-called “Northern Triangle” countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras). As recently as 2018, 87% of migrants came from those countries.

The increasingly non-Mexican, non-Central American nature of today’s migrant population was the subject of a story that the Associated Press, reporting from the U.S.-Mexico border, published yesterday.

Migration data from Mexico

Sometime at the very end of June, Mexico’s Interior Department released data about migration through the country in the month of May. It turns out that May was the fourth-busiest ever month that Mexico has experienced, with authorities apprehending 32,948 migrants from other countries.

This next chart used to be almost entirely blue, brown, and yellow, representing the three countries of Central America’s “Northern Triangle,” who made up nearly all migrants coming through Mexico. Now, though, those countries make up only 54 percent of the total.

The rest—shown in green—come from the rest of the world, mainly the Americas. Here’s all nationalities with at least 100 apprehended migrants in Mexico in May:

  1. Honduras 7,512
  2. Guatemala 7,046
  3. Nicaragua 3,462
  4. El Salvador 3,285
  5. Cuba 3,141
  6. Colombia 3,016
  7. Peru 1,165
  8. Venezuela 1,640
  9. Ecuador 756
  10. Brazil 398
  11. Russia 271
  12. Haiti 246
  13. Dominican Republic 102

The number of apprehended migrants from Haiti (#12) has fallen sharply: fewer than those from Russia in May. Haitian migration through Mexico reached a peak last September, the month of the “whipping” or “flailing reins” incident in Del Rio, Texas. That month, Mexican forces apprehended 9,009 Haitian citizens.

Here is the latest data about deportations of Mexicans into Mexico. This statistic has reached higher levels than during the last two years of the Trump administration, in part due to a larger number of Mexican citizens attempting to migrate into the United States. Notable is the recent growth of this chart’s yellow segment: deportations into Tamaulipas, the only Mexican border state considered so violent and dangerous that the U.S. State Department has given it a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” warning.

The data underlying these charts is from the Mexican Interior Department’s Migratory Statistics Unit. I used Table 3.1.1 and Table 5.1.

Latest data from Mexico’s asylum system

9,740 people requested asylum in Mexico in June. That’s slightly fewer than in February, March, and April, but still puts Mexico’s refugee agency, COMAR, on track for its second-largest year ever.

Last year, a large number of Haitian citizens, migrating north after spending years living mostly in Brazil and Chile, made Haiti the number-one country of origin for asylum seekers. (The Chileans who appear here in 2020 and 2021 were almost entirely the Chilean-born children of Haitian migrants.)

This year, Honduras has returned to the number-one position that it has held during recent years. Arrivals from Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua all appear likely to break past records.

Don’t let the “caravan” in southern Mexico distract you

Media are reporting on a large number of migrants leaving Tapachula, the city near Mexico’s border with Guatemala where tens of thousands are stranded, because Mexico requires them to remain in the state where they first apply for asylum. (See an early June report on Tapachula from some of my colleagues at WOLA.)

Hungry and miserable while waiting for Mexico’s backlogged asylum system to move, many are packing up and leaving. This time, a large number are Venezuelan.

Reuters estimated on June 6 that “at least 6,000” people left Tapachula en masse. Fox News immediately took notice and started piping footage into their viewers’ eyeballs.

Three points about this:

  1. No “migrant caravan” has succeeded in reaching the U.S.-Mexico border since late 2018. Mexican forces routinely break them up. A large one last fall dwindled, with just a few hundred walking all the way to Mexico City (very, very far from the U.S. border), as Mexican forces prohibited caravan participants from boarding vehicles. Caravans have become more of a negotiating tactic for migrants to press for permission to live in parts of Mexico where jobs are while awaiting asylum outcomes. (Tapachula is in Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest state.)
  2. Even if the caravan did manage to arrive at the U.S. border, we’d hardly notice right now. In late May, Axios reported that “the administration’s internal data now counts about 8,000 people attempting to cross the southwest border each day.” So “at least 6,000” people is less than a day’s worth of migration at the border right now.
  3. Caravans are what migrants attempt when they can’t afford to pay thousands of dollars each to a smuggler to get them across Mexico. They attempt to band together as a form of “safety in numbers.” But as noted, caravans really don’t succeed anymore. Instead, most of those 8,000 people a day arriving at the U.S. border right now are paying smuggling networks. And most of them cross Mexico in a week or two, usually less, in vehicles. U.S. media outlets’ and anti-migrant politicians’ obsession over “caravans” benefits those smuggling networks by making them migrants’ only option.

And it totally lets off the hook the corrupt Mexican migration and security officials who enrich themselves by looking the other way, waving smugglers’ vehicles through their many road checkpoints. The need to pay those officials (and, in northern Mexico, organized crime) is why smugglers’ fees are so high in the first place. But corruption gets like one hundredth the attention that “caravan” footage gets. Stop being distracted by the caravans.

Military-to-Military Relations with Mexico on Twitter

Even as Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador boycotts the Summit of the Americas, knocking the bilateral diplomatic relationship further sideways, the U.S.-Mexico military-to-military relationship seems to be all hugs and smiles—judging.

That’s the impression you get, at least, looking at these tweets posted over the past 3 weeks.

Asylum requests in Mexico

The Mexican government’s refugee agency, COMAR, is nearly on pace to tie Mexico’s record, set last year, for the most migrants applying for asylum.

Last year, the largest number of Mexico’s asylum seekers came from Haiti. This year, Hondurans have retaken the number-one spot.

These and 48 more infographics about the U.S.-Mexico border and migration now “live” at WOLA’s new “Border Oversight” website.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.