As the Latin American refugee crisis continues to worsen, many refugees and asylum-seekers have settled in Mexico instead of the United States despite the country’s violence and inequality due to its similar job opportunities and less strict asylum laws.

Mexico has become an extremely popular place for refugees, migrants, and asylum-seekers in Latin America to go to, coming third as the most popular destination in the world behind the U.S. and Germany, according to the Seattle Times.

At times, its robust system for asylum seekers as well as its high grant rate in the country–61% of those seeking asylum were accepted into the country versus the U.S.’ 46%–makes it a more attractive location for refugees from Latin American countries like Colombia and Honduras, the Associated Press reported.

A large part of that is due to how Mexico’s asylum policies abide by the Cartagena Declaration, which gives a safe haven to refugees experiencing a broad amount of violence in their country, while the U.S. uses the U.N. Refugee Convention which stipulates more individualized and targeted violence to be considered for asylum.

Many, like Colombian refugee Juan Pablo Sanchez, said that the opportunities in towns like Tijuana are similar to the U.S., but with lower costs of living that allow folks like them to be able to send back more money to their relatives and families back home. “The fruit (of my work) is seen in Colombia,” he said. “Making a living in the United States is precarious.”

Many of those seeking asylum in Mexico reportedly have to stay within the state that they applied in unless they receive permits to travel within the country. Many have been forced to apply in the Chiapas state bordering Guatemala, where jobs are scarcer than in places like Tijuana.

Despite these positives of migrating to Mexico by Latino refugees, many are still worried or continue to be worried by the increasing amount of inequality and violence in the country, most of which are perpetrated by gang activity which is normal in the country.

Some refugees, like Honduran refugee Maria Rosario Blanco, continue to target the U.S. due to the large amount of gang activity in Mexico, which she sees as reminiscent of what she had run away from in her home country. Her farmhouse and land was burned down by gang members and her husband and son were threatened death if they did not join the local gangs.

“The new rule is that people are obligated to join [the gangs],” she said. “If you refuse, it doesn’t matter. They kill you either way.”

Mexico Refugee and Asylum Rep. Pic
As the Latin American refugee crisis continues to worsen, countries like Mexico has become an attractive place for refugees to go to due to the less-stringent asylum laws as well as having similar job opportunities to the United States. This is a representational image. Barbara Zandoval/Unsplash.

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