Profound shifts in economics, demographics and crime are transforming immigration patterns and causing upheaval in Central and North America. After decades in which Mexicans dominated illegal immigration to the United States, the overall number of immigrants has dropped and the profile has changed.
Although Mexicans remain the largest group, U.S.-bound migrants today are increasingly likely to be young Central Americans fleeing violence as well as poverty, or migrants from remote locales such as India and Africa who pay top smuggling fees. They journey through a gantlet of predators.
Mexico’s southern frontier has become a national security concern for U.S., Mexican and Central American leaders. Interviews with U.S. and Mexican government officials, human rights advocates and migrants by a ProPublica reporter visiting the border showed how these converging trends are raising alarms.
“It is becoming imperative and urgent to immediately initiate and develop in the next few years a serious and coordinated regional strategic plan in the areas of security, control and development to prevent this border from sliding out of control and generating an experience with enormous gravity for the region,” said Gustavo Mohar, a veteran immigration and intelligence official who ended his tenure last week as Mexico’s interior sub-secretary for migration issues.