Shelter in Mexico reports significant drop in migrants since President Trump was elected
As the number of migrants dips, people-smugglers raise the asking price for passage
Amarilis Mendoza is getting used to stares and double takes. The 13-year-old from Guatemala lost part of her left leg when she fell from a moving train, a train she had hoped would carry her to the United States.
Her shirt reads “Keep moving forward.” But now that defiant message is a reference to her attitude more than her aborted journey to the United States.
“Let’s live in the present moment,” she said in Spanish, smiling shyly. “To be sad? No. To think about things I’ve left behind? No.”
Amarilis’ father, Rocael, decided the trek north was just too dangerous – and given what they’ve heard about President Donald Trump’s immigration policy, they no longer see the United States as the promised land. They are among a growing number of migrants from Central America who are choosing to stay in Mexico, either temporarily or permanently. Mexico’s Department of the Interior reports a 150% increase in asylum applications since Trump was elected.
Instead of continuing the journey to the United States, the Mendozas have found a new home at the Jesus El Buen Pastor migrant shelter in Tapalucha.
“When we left we heard nothing about the President,” Amarilis said.
“Now we heard they were deporting everyone.”
People ‘forgot about the American dream’
“After the new President in the United States, many people forgot about the American dream,” said Angel Morge of Tapachula’s Office for Migrants and Refugees.
“They don’t want to go up there because they know they’re going to have problems.”
According to Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, the number of people crossing Mexico’s southern border is trending down.
“We don’t know yet if this is a long-term trend,” Videgaray said.
But the Trump administration claims this as a victory.
“Border security for the United States starts 1,500 miles to the south (in Central America),” said Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
“Thanks to President Donald Trump,” Vice President Mike Pence said, “illegal crossings at America’s southern border are down nearly 70% since the start of this year.”
Not everyone here sees Trump’s stance on immigration as lasting policy. Along Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, it’s not hard to find people who are biding their time, waiting for politics to simmer down.
Journey begins with river crossing
For many of the more than 75,000 Central Americans who US Customs and Border Protection officials say have been apprehended at the US southern border since October, the journey north began with a crossing of the Suchiate River.
Under a sweltering sun and cloying humidity in Tapachula, the river marks the point where Mexico and Guatemala meet. “Right here they don’t have any restrictions,” said Jose Delgado Espinoza, as he stepped off a raft onto Mexican soil.
He lives in Guatemala and crosses the river often to shop and visit friends. Carrying a backpack and wearing a cap and Air Jordan T-shirt, the 28-year old said he returns to Guatemala at the end of his day.
But soon, he hopes, he’ll cross the Suchiate and never go back, continuing north to the United States, where he lived as recently as last year.
“(Trump) is not stopping me because I want to be with my family,” he said.