Nicaragua Migrant Crisis Rep. Pic
Sometimes Mexican authorities take migrants back south, sometimes they ask them for bribes Barbara Zandoval/Unsplash.

Migratory flows to the United States have decreased over the past few months compared to historical highs, with many saying that enforcement from Mexican authorities has played a large role in this.

But despite the orders that might come from the top of the Andrés Manuel López Obrador (commonly known as AMLO) administration, a new report by the Financial Times shows a more nuanced picture on the ground, with contrasting cases depending on the officials' individual behavior.

Migrants interviewed by the outlets recalled occasions when authorities force them to go back to the southern region of the country, forcing them to start that part of their journeys again; others when they ask for bribes to let them continue walking and some times when they offered them bus rides to cities further north, closer to the U.S. border.

These examples of uneven enforcement contrast with policies taken by the government, including tightening visa rules, deploying the military to stem the flow of migrants and setting up checkpoints. Mexico also reached an agreement with Venezuela to deport migrants to the South American country. The number of nationals reaching the U.S. border has plummeted ever since.

However, the other side of the coin, the report adds, is the swift release of many migrants because of their legal protection and the lack of resources to deal with the ever-increasing number of people crossing through the country.

Official figures show that "of a record near 120,000 migrant detentions in Mexico in January, just 3,000 were moved to another country." The number could be somewhat higher as Guatemalan migrants are also subjected to rapid removal but this is not published in the official statistics.

Gretchen Kuhner, director at the civil society group Imumi told the outlet that, faced with all these challenges, Mexico's policy has been "basically wearing people down." "Send them from the north to the south and dump them in the south so they have to make their way back up."

This scenario has pushed many in the hands of organized crime groups, who take migrants through riskier areas to avoid detection. In fact, U.S. authorities recently kicked off a campaign seeking to discourage migrants from taking a specific, perilous route through New Mexico and Texas that is known as "the graveyard."

149 migrants died in this area, which encompasses far west Texas and southern New Mexico, in fiscal year 2023. 34 more have lost their lives since October 1, when fiscal year 2024 started. 90% of all fatalities took place in New Mexico.

In this context, federal authorities have partnered with local officials and Mexican diplomats with this purpose. The campaign, called "No se arriesgue" (Don't risk it) is running public service announcements online and engaging the Spanish-speaking community.

As well as the campaign, Border Patrol is trying to reduce fatalities by placing emergency beacons in the desert, which include geolocators and instructions to deal 911 when lost. Smugglers, however, have been telling migrants not to contact authorities because they will be deported.

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