Record migrant flows to US close out 2022 in Mexico, Central America

Ciudad Juarez/Tapachula/Panama City, Jan 1 (EFE).- Last year was marked by record immigration flows from Latin American to the United States, with Venezuelans and Cubans in the forefront but with an ongoing humanitarian crisis on the southern US border due to massive numbers of Mexicans and Central Americans trying to escape violence in their homelands and better their economic circumstances by traveling to the US.

The phenomenon is evident on the US-Mexico border, with the US Customs and Border Protection service apprehending a record 2.76 million undocumented migrants in the zone during Fiscal Year 2022 and with substantial increases in the numbers of Cubans and Venezuelans seized.

The challenge is huge in border cities like Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, which the first quarter of 2022 saw the arrival of thousands of members of a Haitian exodus and since August the arrival of thousands of Venezuelans, Thiago Almeida, the head of the United Nations’ International Office for Immigration (IOM) in Juarez, told EFE.

“During (2022), more than five million Venezuelans left their country and the majority still have the intention to cross (the border) into the United States. In recent months, a number of them were crossing into the US and now they are in cities like Ciudad Juarez after being deported,” he said in an interview.

The zone is a quite sensitive to changes in US policies, and on Oct. 12 the US government announced the immediate deportation of Venezuelans arriving in the country by land, while uncertainty was being sparked among migrants by the pending elimination of Title 42, although the Joe Biden administration had opposed that and now the US Supreme Court has put its suspension on hold.

“I left my country due to the immigration crisis and I’m going to wait until Dec. 21 to see if we can get across, to see if they get rid of Title 42. If I can’t get across, I’ll stay in Mexico, I’ll make some money and I’ll go to Colombia,” Luis Miguel Gonzalez, a migrant waiting in Juarez, said.

Just like on its northern frontier, Mexico’s southern border is also experiencing “an insane situation” due to the arrival of migrants of many nationalities, Olga Sanchez Martinez, the winner of the National Human Rights Prize and founder of the Jesus the Good Savior of the Poor and Migrants shelter, said.

Her shelter – the largest in Tapachula, Mexico, which borders on Guatemala and is an entry point for Central American and other migrants into Mexico – currently houses 1,400 migrants, triple its capacity and among whom Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, Ecuadorians and Africans stand out, given that these groups have “never come (here) before” in such large numbers.

“Everyone is surprised by this migration and we weren’t prepared. We have no experience with these people. Here it’s the 20th (of December) and I feel like the authorities still don’t know what to do. It’s something we’ve never faced before,” she told EFE.

Jacinto Medina, a Venezuelan migrant stranded in Tapachula after the US restricted migrants’ entry, said that Mexico is making things complicated because it’s keeping people in certain spots and not letting them move on towards a final destination.

“By not letting us move, what’s happening is an accumulation of people. We’re not doing anything and we don’t have papers and they’re not giving us work. How can we get by? One of the things to depressurize migration is for them to let us move on,” he told EFE.

The dangerous Darien jungle, the natural border zone between Panama and Colombia, for years has been a prime route for illegal migration to the US for people from all over the world.

Panama has tallied more than 220,000 migrants who have arrived in the country on their trek to the US, an unprecedented figure and one that has been inflated primarily by Venezuelans.

But the official Panamanian figures confirm that in this flow are people from more than 30 nations, including Africans, Asians, Europeans and Caribbeans, as well as South Americans.

In all, in Costa Rica, with its 5.1 million citizens, there are about 200,000 people with pending asylum requests awaiting resolution, President Rodrigo Chaves acknowledged.

Meanwhile, in Honduras, between 500 and 600 people leave the country each day, according to humanitarian organizations, despite Washington’s tightening of immigration laws.

At the same time, the number of deportations of Hondurans has also risen, most of them from the US and Mexico, with about 73,000 people returned between January and September, 23,909 Hondurans or 48.7 percent more than during the same period in 2021, according to official figures.

Neighboring Guatemala has reported 86,000 migrants repatriated up through Nov. 23, 27 percent higher than the figure for the 12 months of 2021.

In addition, when the US tightened its immigration policy to restrict the entry of more Venezuelan migrants, Guatemala transformed its border with Honduras into a “wall” guarded by 3,000 specially assigned soldiers, after which more than 15,000 Venezuelans were taken into custody.

EFE –/bp

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