Last Hope or Last Stop? Mexico’s Growing Migrant Crisis

Last Hope or Last Stop? Mexico’s Growing Migrant Crisis
Central American migrants attend a Mass at the Basilica de Guadalupe, Mexico City, April 18, 2015 (AP photo by Marco Ugarte).

TAPACHULA, Mexico—David Gramajo was working as a bricklayer in Atlanta in 2012 when he was stopped by police for driving without a license, turned over to immigration authorities, and deported to his native Guatemala. But once he returned to Guatemala City, he and his wife Alejandra struggled to maintain their business and protect their three children. They received constant threats from gang members who extorted and threatened their family for the little money they had. Eventually, they were forced to leave behind their business and again head north, but this time with a different aim: Mexico.

I met David and his family in early 2017, as they finished lunch at Albergue Belen, a migrant and refugee shelter in Tapachula, Chiapas, where he and his family awaited the results of their asylum application with the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance, known by its Spanish acronym, COMAR.

Tapachula is located half an hour from the Mexico-Guatemala border, through which some 400,000 migrants have crossed in the past year. David and his family are among a growing number fleeing violence in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America—El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala—who have opted to apply for asylum in Mexico rather than continue their journeys to the United States. Their circumstances make them eligible for refugee protection under international law. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of refugee applicants in Mexico rose 150 percent, from just over 3,500 to 8,781 at the end of 2016, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency, the U.N. High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR).

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.