Mexico appeared to respond quickly, with detentions and deportations jumping almost immediately.
In April, nearly 15,000 migrants were deported by Mexico, up from about 9,100 in March, according to government statistics. The monthly tally climbed even higher in May. Over the last two months, the López Obrador administration deported 67 percent more migrants than its predecessor did during the same period in 2018.
“The López Obrador administration clearly wants to create a different approach to managing migration that treats migrants more humanely,” said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington. “But faced by the exponential growth in the flow and the pressure from the Trump administration to stop it, they have mostly fallen back on an enforcement-only approach, like previous Mexican administrations.”
The Mexican government has not entirely abandoned its efforts to accommodate migrants and absorb them into the nation’s fabric. It has sought to expand eligibility for work and visitor visas for Central Americans. And some migrants’ advocates say it has done a better job than past administrations of promoting its asylum program, which is on track to receive about 60,000 applications this year, about double the number last year.
Many thousands of migrants, often as a last resort to avoid deportation, have applied for visas or asylum in Mexico. But the rush has overwhelmed the government’s migration agencies, which are crumpling under the weight of severe backlogs and budget cuts. Despite the relentless increase in migration in recent months, the division that handles enforcement, the National Migration Institute, suffered a 23 percent reduction in its budget this year.
The delays are evident here in Tapachula, the main city in this part of Mexico and a major way station for migrants en route from Central America to the north.
Thousands of migrants fill the city’s shelters and budget hotels, or crowd cheap rooming houses, waiting months for a resolution to their applications.