April 28, 2015

With help from Mexico, number of child migrants crossing U.S. border falls

Mexico Deportations Trim Flow of Child Migrants to U.S.The Mexican government has deported a record number of Central American children traveling without a guardian since last fall, which President Obama and other U.S. officials say has contributed to a significant drop in children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mexico’s 3,819 deportations of unaccompanied minors from Central America during the first five months of the fiscal year represent a 56% increase over the same period a year earlier, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Mexican and U.S. government data. The stepped up security was a result of a plan by Mexican officials to address the record surge in child migrants last year.

Overall, U.S. officials apprehended 12,509 unaccompanied children at the U.S.-Mexico border in the first five months of the fiscal year that began in October, down from 21,403 over the same time period a year ago. (Most children apprehended during this fiscal year — 7,771 — came from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, with nearly all of the rest coming from Mexico.)

Guatemalan Share of Child Migrants GrowsThe Mexican data also show changes in terms of where the unaccompanied children are traveling from this year compared with last. Guatemalan children now comprise a higher share of deportations, as their numbers have doubled in the first five months of this fiscal year compared with the same period a year ago. In addition, the number of Salvadoran children deported has increased by 49% over the same time period, while the number of Honduran children is similar to the previous year.

Last summer’s surge in apprehensions by U.S. authorities of unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border was due to dramatic increases from all three Central American countries. Among all children apprehended, 27% were from Honduras, 25% from Guatemala and 24% from El Salvador. Last year, many unaccompanied children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border had fled violence in Honduras and El Salvador. (Guatemalan unaccompanied minors were more likely to leave for economic reasons.)

In the first five months of this fiscal year, though, Guatemalans account for more than one-third (35%) of unaccompanied children apprehended in the U.S., compared with 18% from El Salvador and 9% from Honduras.

In addition to the Mexican government’s record number of deportations, there are other possible reasons for this year’s decline in children attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. The decrease in apprehensions comes as the U.S. government has sped up the processing of immigration court cases for unaccompanied minors and launched public information campaigns in Central America to discourage children from trying to cross into the U.S. At the same time, a new program allows some immigrants here illegally who have obtained relief from deportation (such as Salvadorans and Hondurans with Temporary Protected Status) to apply for their children to join them in the U.S. as refugees or asylum seekers. To date, no applications for this program have been approved.

In addition, homicide rates are declining in some of the Central American countries. In Honduras, where drug-related violence has been a problem, the homicide rate in 2012 was at around 86 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest for any country in the world. In 2014, the rate had dropped to 68 per 100,000, although the country still has one of the world’s highest homicide rates.

Topics: Latin America, Unauthorized Immigration, Immigration Trends, Migration

  1. Photo of Ana Gonzalez-Barrera

    is a senior researcher focusing on Hispanics, immigration and demographics at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Jens Manuel Krogstad

    is a writer/editor focusing on Hispanics, immigration and demographics at Pew Research Center.


  1. Richard Tebaldi2 years ago

    We need to mirror all other countries immigration policies including Mexico’s. They are dumping on us, don’t care about us or our laws and are laughing in our faces, because our laws have no teeth. Congress and the present administration is responsible for this. The voting public is not. Because Congress can’t be held responsible for their actions, which is writing a check to Congress with no strings attached. We know they do this as well. It ought to be illega. If they want us to “bring families of illegal aliens” together, we will!… and send the entire illegally entry family back to where they came from with instructions as to how to get here legally at the host countries expense.

    1. George Oliver2 years ago

      Directed at the previous comment:

      It appears that the gentleman is in anger over something that is political (congress) and allowing his emotions to be mirrored into an issue that is humanitarian (child migrants), where by his Comment about mirroring Mexico’s immigration policy is without true value. While yes, it would be helpful the look into the policies that Mexico has been enforcing, saying that sending “them” all back and giving them instructions on how to get here legally or the right way is not answer to the real problem. The reality is that people (humans) seek peace, safety and shelter for themselves and are willing to Go to extremes to attain it. I wouldn’t expect this gentleman who is posting comments on a public forum to understand, it is by no means his fault that these things happen. Instead, I encourage him to read Maslow and understand the reality of what is happening. Critiquing from behind a home computer does not do anything to solve the problem. Advocating, fund raising, getting behind a movement to eradicate the problem is a much better solution. Sending people “back” merely removes them from your immediate eye sight, but does not abolish the problem of poverty, violence or corruption.

      1. Robert Deason2 years ago

        Well put Mr. Oliver. Mr. Tebaldi is lacking any sense of what they would be “going back” to: many of these children have lost their parents, their families, are walking streets among lurking violent child traffickers and drug peddlers who own the police, malnutrition, no health services. In the Peace Corps I lived in Bogota, Columbia where I saw bands of hundreds of roaming homeless kids, “Gamínes,” that begging and stole to make it through each day – in a country where the majority of adults didn’t fair much better, but they could sweep a storefront or pick up trash in the park for a Coke and slice of white bread. But . . . I’ll assume the angry, Mr. Tebaldi, is one whom Bertrand Russell said cannot understand many things because they don’t have the ability to interpret what others are saying into something they can comprehend.

      2. Thomas Perrin2 years ago

        Thank you for your insight, Mr. Oliver. Sending ‘back’ someone who fled in the first place begs the question: What, precisely, are they fleeing? Could they be the poor, the tired, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free?