The Impact of Securitization on Central American Migrants, PRP 199

Leutert, Stephanie
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LBJ School of Public Affairs

This report evaluates Mexico’s migratory policies as well as the legal mandates of government bodies whose agents regularly interact with Central American migrants. It documents advances such as the decriminalization of irregular migration and the enactment of laws that protect certain high-risk groups. It also covers backsliding, such as when migratory officials and police officers fail to comply with Mexico's migratory laws. Additionally, the report describes the abuse of authority, corruption, and high rates of impunity within the Mexican federal agencies tasked with implementing migration policy.

For over a decade, Mexico’s government has increasingly viewed migration policy as a national security issue. This report will examine how Mexico adopted this lens and how a national security approach affects migrants traveling through the country. Increased levels of militarization along Mexico’s southern border have coincided with elevated rates of detention and deportations for irregular migrants. These policies—including the most recent Southern Border Plan of 2014—have pushed migrants away from populated areas with heavier law enforcement presences, increasing their exposure to environmental and criminal risks. This report demonstrates how restrictive migration policies affect the risks that migrants encounter during their journeys through Mexico. It draws on data obtained from transparency requests, publicly available reports, and an original Migrant Risk Database.

Finally, this report makes several recommendations to various Mexican agencies and organizations involved in migration policy. These recommendations aim to improve security for migrants transiting through Mexico. They also seek to enhance institutional effectiveness in agencies that deal with migrants. They generally represent short-term steps that could be implemented by the next Mexican presidential administration to improve protections for migrants and the country’s overall migratory policy. However, for significant progress, Mexico will need to better address systemic issues that endanger migrants, including corruption, rule of law and access to justice, and the control of transnational criminal organizations.