Many of the Central Americans who lined up for papers at an asylum office in southern Mexico said they could abandon plans to reach the United States and remain in Mexico if US President Donald Trump clamps down further on migration.
Mexico is ramping up security on its southern border with Guatemala as part of an agreement with Washington after Trump threatened to impose punitive tariffs on Mexican goods if the government did not stem the flow of migrants reaching the US. Under pressure from Washington, Mexico also agreed to expand a programme started in January that forces migrants to wait in Mexico for the outcome of their US asylum claims. The US began increasing the pace of returns of asylum seekers to Mexico on Thursday.
In addition, if Mexico does not reduce immigration flows by mid-July, it would become a “safe third country” where asylum seekers would have to seek refuge instead of in the United States.
In the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, the overburdened COMAR refugee office in the city of Tapachula has seen a surge of asylum seekers. It is one of only three such offices in the country. People waiting in line outside the COMAR office said they would take their chances in Mexico if their only other choice was to return to violence-plagued Central America.
Thousands of families have fled poverty and rampant crime in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala in the past year, making their way through Mexico to the United States.
“If we have no other option then yes, we could remain in Mexico because we really cannot go back to Honduras,” said Dagoberto, 34, waiting in line in the blazing midday sun on Friday with his partner, Jose. Dagoberto said he had received threats in Honduras when the business he worked for was taken over by a criminal gang. He was asking COMAR for a humanitarian visa to allow him to get to the US border. Dagoberto and Jose, who hope to get married if they reach the United States, declined to give their surnames, saying the gang that forced them out of Honduras had international reach.
Nidia Martinez and her three children slept the previous three nights on the sidewalk in front of the COMAR office, where she is seeking a credential to let her to travel north toward the US border.
“I want to get to the United States. If I can’t, then Mexico is a good place to live,” she said, citing a sense of increased security she felt since arriving in Tapachula. “In Honduras, you can’t sleep on the street because they’d rob you. They’d abuse you or kill you,” Martinez, 28, said, beaming with relief that she and her children had not been assaulted in Tapachula. — Reuters