One Year after the U.S.-Mexico Agreement: Reshaping Mexico’s Migration Policies
On June 7, 2019, after months of heightened Central American migration through Mexico to the United States, the Mexican and U.S. governments signed an agreement to work together to manage the migration of Central American asylum seekers and other migrants. This ushered in an intense period of policy and institutional change that is reshaping Mexico’s immigration enforcement and humanitarian protection systems.
After being threatened with steep tariffs on Mexican goods, Mexico agreed to step up enforcement efforts, accepted the expansion of the U.S. Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP, also known as Remain in Mexico) along the U.S.-Mexico border, and promised to increase collaboration with the United States to disrupt migrant-smuggling networks. In turn, the United States pledged to expedite the asylum cases of migrants waiting in Mexico under MPP and invest in economic development efforts in southern Mexico and Central America to address the drivers of migration.
While the full impact of the deal will likely take years to unfold, this policy brief takes stock of what has changed in the first year since its signing. It charts trends in migrant apprehensions and returns by Mexican authorities, and the volume of asylum applications filed in Mexico. The brief also examines challenges that have intensified during this time, including the precarious conditions many migrants face while waiting in Mexican border communities for their U.S. asylum cases to be heard and the COVID-19 pandemic that hit in early 2020. Looking ahead, the brief highlights opportunities for further policy development.
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2 The U.S.-Mexico Migration Cooperation Agreement
A. Stepped-Up Enforcement at Mexico’s Borders and in Its Interior
B. Expansion of the Migrant Protection Protocols
C. Other Elements of the Agreement
3 Challenging Mexico’s Humanitarian Protection System
4 Immigration Enforcement and Humanitarian Protection amid COVID-19