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Student Research Presentation “Beyond the Border: Central American Migration and Mexico’s Migratory Policy”

April 24, 2019 |  12:15 pm  |  LBJ School of Public Affairs, SRH 3.124

On Wednesday, April 24, 2019, a group of students, led by the Director of the Strauss Center’s Mexico Security Initiative Stephanie Leutert, presented their research on Central American migration and Mexico’s migration policy. The research focused on Mexico’s Southern Border Program, the country’s detention centers, protections for unaccompanied minors, and barriers for refugees integrating into Mexican society. The research was conducted with FM4 Paso Libre, a Mexican non-governmental organization and migrant shelter, and was co-sponsored by LLILAS.

The video of this event is available here.

In 2014, Mexico implemented the Southern Border Program, which was created with the two objectives of 1) protecting migrants that come through Mexico and 2) securing the southern border. In practice, the two objectives were not equally implemented. By increasing migration enforcement, the program had an adverse effect on migrants’ security. In 2015, Mexico’s apprehensions of migrants increased significantly. However, in the following years, apprehensions decreased. The group provided four recommendations to improve the program: increase legal pathways and regularize migration, clarify legal mandates for joint operations, improve government transparency, and shift the focus to humanitarian assistance.

The next part of their research looked at Mexico’s detention centers. There are three steps to Mexico’s migratory enforcement process: apprehension, detention, and release. For all indicators of center conditions (hygiene, legal services, interpreters, and high-risk groups), the centers failed to live up to legally mandated standards and there was a lot of variance in quality among centers. The group made the following recommendations to improve the detention centers: standardize data reporting across detention facilities, improve conditions to align with standards outlined in the country’s 2011 Migratory Act, and remove unclear language from the Migratory Act.

Next, a group of the students presented their research on unaccompanied minors. The number of apprehensions of unaccompanied minors has grown dramatically in the past ten years. The processing of minors starts with an apprehension, and soon after the minors should receive a medical check and be matched with a child protection officer who helps determine whether they qualify for protections. Next, the minors are transferred to a state shelter which are supposed to have education, health, and mental health services. Once their case is resolved, the minors are either deported or receive international protections. The group provided a few recommendations to better support minors: improve funding for protection officers, provide more flexible legal services for minors, and continue with open-door shelters initiative.

Lastly, the research looked at refugee integration. In the first three months of 2019, there were more applications for refugee status than in all of 2016. This increase in applications has put a stress on the refugee system and application processing time has dramatically increased as a result. The students found difficulties for refugees in accessing education, employment, and healthcare. To deal with the challenges, the group provided the following recommendations: ensure COMAR is properly resourced and focused to serve a growing diverse population, improve access to education, employment, and healthcare, and increase awareness and sensitization toward refugees among the general population.

The “Beyond the Border: Central American Migration and Mexico’s Migratory Policy” Policy Research Project focuses on Central American migration from a Mexican policy perspective. It grapples with the complicated questions that Mexico faces as a migration transit corridor and destination for international migrants. More information about this project can be accessed here.

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