MEXICO CITY—Mexico detained more migrants, most of them headed to the U.S, than ever before from January to November of 2021, according to government statistics.
Authorities in Mexico detained more than a quarter of a million migrants during that period— 252,526—the vast majority in Mexico’s southern border state of Chiapas, which borders Guatemala and is where most migrants traveling from Central America enter Mexico on their way north to the U.S.
The new figures suggest that the government of Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is working harder than ever to serve the interests of the U.S., which has been piling pressure on Mexico to deport migrants passing through on their way to the United States for decades.
The number of detentions is a massive increase from 2020, when migration dropped dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic and only 82,000 migrants were detained, according to media reports. The previous high was 2005, when over 240,000 migrants were detained in Mexico.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama began putting significant political pressure on Mexico to stop migrants from Central America from getting to the countries' shared borders following a surge of unaccompanied child migrants in 2014. Back then, Mexico launched its Southern Border Plan under pressure from the U.S., and began detaining thousands of migrants.
Pressure to detain migrants on their way through Mexico increased under the administration of Donald Trump and continues under that of Joe Biden.
Nearly 110,000 of the migrants detained by Mexican officials this year came from Honduras, followed most closely by Guatemala with over 70,000. An additional roughly 18,000 were Haitian. Other continents saw much lower numbers. African migrants accounted for only 1,851 of the amount detained, while Asian migrants only numbered 1,327—with roughly half coming from Bangladesh.
Migrants fleeing corrupt, fragile and violence-ravaged states in Central America and other nations run many risks passing through Mexico: They can fall prey to criminal groups and corrupt law enforcement officials—kidnappings and disappearances of migrants is common. In January, 19 migrants died near the U.S. border after being shot at and having their truck set on fire. 12 police officers, some of them trained by the U.S., were charged for their murders.
Rudimentary and unsafe transport methods used by migrant groups and the smugglers they pay to help them get to the border with the United States are also hazardous. More than 50 migrants were killed this month in the southern state of Chiapas when a trailer-truck carrying more than 150 people crashed.
But neither those dangers, nor measures taken by the U.S.government, are deterring migrants from making the treacherous journey from their home country in search of “the American Dream.”