Claims that Mexico is a safe country by any conventional measure are dubious: Crime statistics show that 2017 was Mexico’s deadliest year on record, and Mexicans themselves still rank among the most common asylum applicants in the United States. (President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador was voted in, in part, on the promise of reducing migration to the United States by improving conditions for Mexicans at home.)
What has received less attention, however, is whether Mexico, despite its emerging status as a destination for other migrants, is truly capable of receiving them. Once a country of transit, Mexico is already buckling under the demands of its new reality. Although its government had once styled itself as a progressive defender of refugees, some immigrants are discovering that the country isn’t nearly as welcoming to its neighbors in need as its rhetoric suggests.
“It’s not that Mexico has decided to take more people,” said Irazú Gomez, a coordinator with the migrant defense organization Sin Fronteras. “People are arriving regardless, even if there is no political will.” The problem, she said, is that last year, “the system collapsed.”