Regarded as the ‘vertical border’, over the past two decades Mexico has become one of the most dangerous countries for migrants seeking to reach the United States. As a result of major changes in migration and asylum policies, most notably the Migrant Protection Protocol, Mexico has increasingly become a destination country for thousands of migrants who cannot return to their countries of origin and who are trapped by an immigration system that denies them legitimate avenues for mobility.
Children and young people, 98% of them originating from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, are among those likely to be arrested and detained by the Mexican immigration authorities. Many studies have shown that they are fleeing violence and appalling socioeconomic conditions in Central America. Official data from the National Institute of Migration and Mexico’s Ministry of the Interior show that the number of arrests and deportations of unaccompanied children and young people has steadily grown since 2010, reaching a peak of 40,114 in 2016. After a temporary decline in the number of arrests in 2017, the number has risen again with the media reporting that detentions surpassed 40,500 in 2019.
Current immigration policies, focused on detention and deterrence, deny migrant children and young people the right to claim asylum and international protection. Instead, many are sent to Mexico to wait for their hearings, often indefinitely, and to live in extremely dangerous and precarious conditions. This dynamic has triggered an important process of building new protection mechanisms for migrant children that could be very promising, but which have yet to be fully implemented.
'Los otros muros' Image by Martha Victoria Ríos Infante