Last week, ProPublica published an article that explores the shifting border of illegal immigration. Although Mexicans remain the largest group, U.S.-bound migrants today are increasingly likely to be young Central Americans fleeing violence as well as poverty, or migrants from remote locales such as India and Africa who pay top smuggling fees. They journey through a gantlet of predators.
Mexico’s southern frontier has become a national security concern for U.S., Mexican and Central American leaders. Interviews with U.S. and Mexican government officials, human rights advocates and migrants by a ProPublica reporter visiting the border showed how these converging trends are raising alarms.
“It is becoming imperative and urgent to immediately initiate and develop in the next few years a serious and coordinated regional strategic plan in the areas of security, control and development to prevent this border from sliding out of control and generating an experience with enormous gravity for the region,” said Gustavo Mohar, a veteran immigration and intelligence official who ended his tenure last week as Mexico’s interior sub-secretary for migration issues.
“The same way that it took the United States 30 years to reach a point of physical control on its border, Mexico needs a medium-range strategy,” Mohar said. “But we will control it better with a strategic vision that part of the problem is Central American poverty and the drug trade.”
The new Mexican administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto inherits repercussions of the transformation at the better-known, aggressively policed U.S.-Mexico border. Although the U.S. political debate often gives a contrary impression, illegal crossing at Mexico’s northern border has plummeted.
Until 2007, the U.S. Border Patrol made an average of about 1 million arrests a year at the line, the overwhelming majority of them Mexicans. But there has been a marked decline since. Patrol statistics through July indicate U.S. agents made about 355,000 apprehensions at the border in the fiscal year that ended in September. An expected figure of about 260,000 arrests of Mexicans would be the lowest in more than a decade.