August 26, 2019 | By Leena Kim

Mexicans Less Receptive to Central American Migrants

Mexico has been a conduit for Central American migrants to reach to the US border for many years. However, deteriorating conditions in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras) have led to even more central American migrants traveling through Mexico in recent years. At the same time, the Trump administration has greatly restricted the ability of these central American migrants to enter the United States, and had threatened Mexico with trade tariffs unless it agreed to allow them to stay in Mexico while awaiting asylum hearings. Currently, at least 13,000 central American migrants are waiting for those hearings in Mexico.

These pressures from its northern and southern borders have impacted Mexican opinion of migrants from Central America. According to a survey by a Mexican press outlet El Universal in October 2018, nearly a half of Mexicans (47%) were in favor of receiving migrants and giving them refugee status. But by April 2019, a second survey found only three in ten (29%) in favor. In the same vein, a majority of Mexicans (58%) agreed with the government to stop the flow of undocumented migrants in 2019 survey, while only 36 percent had agreed in the fall of 2018.

The migration dispute is also affecting Mexican views of migrants more broadly. Six in ten Mexicans (64%) think migrants from Central America are a burden, according to a July 9-14, 2019 survey conducted by The Washington Post and Reforma. Moreover, a plurality of Mexicans (39%) think migrants commit more crimes than native-born Mexicans, and half (51%) are in favor of the National Guard being used to combat undocumented migration in Mexico. When they were asked what Mexico should do with Central American migrants passing through Mexico, a majority (55%) said Mexico should deport them to their countries of origin, with one-third (33%) supporting giving them temporary residency, and seven percent in favor of giving them residency in Mexico.

Central American migrants are stuck between the Trump administration's hardline immigration policy and an increasingly unfriendly Mexican public. Yet given the conflict and instability in their home countries, they're likely to keep coming.

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The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

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