Under threat of crippling U.S. tariffs, Mexico said on Friday it had reduced the flow of migrants arriving at its northern border by 56% in three months.
But migrants staying in Mexico say they are increasingly insecure and worried for their future.
“I feel that I have to be taking care of my sons a lot even though we are here inside, I have to be aware,” said Omar Antonio Castañeda, a Honduran migrant who has two sons aged 8 and 12.
Using U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the number of migrants apprehended at the US-Mexico border in August was 63,989, down from 144,266 in May.
Ebrard’s numbers include those who presented themselves at U.S. ports of entry and were deemed inadmissible.
Mexico has reinforced security on its porous southern border and set up checkpoints on highways leading north, deploying 21,600 police and troops across the nation.
The enforcement has been paired with an incipient economic development plan. Mexico has agreed with Honduras and El Salvador to expand a tree planting program that aims to keep farmers on their land through direct payments and provide them with income-generating fruit and timber trees.
Mexico has committed $60 million to that program and another to create job opportunities for youth.
Some 4,300 Central American migrants are working in Mexico’s version of that program in the south, Ebrard said.
Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador, a leftist who took office on Dec. 1 promising better treatment of migrants, instead has embraced the fight against migrant smuggling.
In recent weeks, he has seldom mentioned the U.S. pressure and depicts the crackdown on migrants as a struggle to defend Mexican laws.
His administration has taken a tough line against hundreds of African migrants waiting in the southern city of Tapachula for transit visas that Mexico no longer hands out.
He said migrant caravans once tolerated by Mexico were the work of human traffickers, and effectively ended them.
Migrant rights activists say López Obrador is simply dressing up the fact that he yielded to Trump’s pressure tactics.