Waves of migration through Mexico and Central America, and people who go missing, will increase in 2022 due to high levels of violence in the region, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.
“In many countries, violence is wreaking more and more havoc, and that’s why there are more and more migrants,” ICRC representative Jordi Raich told Reuters in an interview Wednesday. “And it’s not a situation that is going to improve or slow down, not even in the years to come.“
Immigration authorities in Mexico detained 307,679 migrants in 2021, a 68% increase compared with 182,940 detentions in 2019, according to government data.
Shelters in Mexico were completely overwhelmed last year, filled with frustrated migrants unable to continue their journey to the United States, Raich said.
Many migrants get “stuck” along Mexico’s southern or northern borders, Raich said, where they face “enormous economic constraints” and are able to find only basic services.
The administration of Joe Biden has faced record numbers of migrants arriving at the southern border and has implored Mexico and Central American countries to do more to stem the wave.
Disappearances in the region have not slowed either, the Red Cross said in a report released Thursday. Mexico recently surpassed 100,000 people reported missing in the country.
In El Salvador, 488 missing person cases remain unsolved, and in Guatemala, the number of missing women rose to six a day, the Red Cross report said.
Raich said it will be difficult to respond to the root causes of migration immediately. A joint effort among countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras is necessary, he added.
“Migration is not going to stop,” Raich said. “If you try to prevent it or strictly regulate it, people start to pile up at the borders, which is happening in Mexico and other countries.”
Meanwhile, the Biden administration on Thursday rolled out a sweeping new regulation that aims to speed up asylum processing and deportations at the US-Mexico border, amid a record number of migrants seeking to enter the US.
The announcement of the new rule came as US officials are debating whether to end a separate Covid-era policy that has blocked most asylum claims at the border. The asylum overhaul could provide a faster way to process border crossers if the Covid order is ended.
The final asylum rule, which will go into effect in late May, will authorize asylum officers to accept or reject migrants’ claims for protection soon after they cross the border, in an effort to resolve them in months rather than years by bypassing backlogged US immigration courts.
The administration of Democratic president Joe Biden says it is a humane way to deal with the rising number of attempted border crossings, which have hit records and triggered attacks from Republicans aiming to take control of Congress in the November midterm elections.
The new policy faced criticism from groups that favor more immigration restrictions as well as from some pro-immigrant advocacy organizations, and may be challenged in court.
Most migrants apprehended at the US southwest border come from Mexico and Central America, but an increasing number are arriving from farther places and seeking refuge, including in recent weeks Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion of their country.
Under the new rule, which is being issued jointly by the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice, more migrants, including families, will be placed in a process known as “expedited removal” to resolve cases more quickly. It will not apply to unaccompanied children.
“The current system for handling asylum claims at our borders has long needed repair,” homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
Some immigrant rights advocates oppose the fast-track process, which aims to process cases within 90 days, fearing it will lead to more deportations.
The new rule “risks sacrificing accurate decision-making for its narrative of speed,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First.
While migrants denied asylum will get another chance to make their case before an immigration judge, those cases will also be expedited with a goal of resolving them within 90 days.
Biden has kept a controversial order known as Title 42, allowing authorities to quickly expel most migrants caught crossing the border to Mexico or other countries to limit the spread of Covid-19.
The administration is leaning toward ending the order after court decisions that complicate its implementation, and is faced with a deadline next week to renew, modify or terminate it.