TREND: As Mexico’s enhanced migration enforcement and regional mobility restrictions have curbed the flows of migrants from other countries arriving to its northern border, U.S. authorities have turned their attention to Mexican apprehensions and repatriations. While the latest figures do not compare to the historic highs seen in previous years, recent data collected by Mexican migration authorities show a changing trend. The data show the following key points:
- From 2015 to the end of 2019, more than 1.1 million Mexicans were repatriated from the United States to Mexico across official ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border and in the interior. Of this total, 90 percent were men and one of every three were originally from the states of Guerrero, Oaxaca, Michoacán, and Guanajuato. Though migrants’ states of origin vary year to year, their proportions among repatriated migrants has remained relatively steady since 2015.
- The annual number of Mexican repatriations has changed significantly in the past two decades. Reflecting a downward trend in irregular migration flows from Mexico to the United States, the number of Mexicans repatriated from the United States declined from a peak of 601,000 in 2009 to 207,000 in 2015 and remained relatively constant since then with an average of 200,000 Mexican migrants repatriated per year.
- Figures during the first three months of 2020 were relatively similar to those of 2019. However, the number of Mexicans repatriated from the United States fell 53 percent in April and May of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, repatriations started to increase gradually from May through July.
- As of July 2020, U.S. authorities repatriated close to 104,000 Mexicans–representing 16 percent less compared to the first seven months of 2019. Of this total, women accounted for 9 percent of repatriations, but accounted for larger shares among migrants originally from Guerrero (17%), Oaxaca (16%), and (13%) Quintana Roo.
- Figures for 2019 also provide interesting insights on the composition of this group and show which states are handling the reception on Mexican nationals. Of the 211,000 Mexican migrants repatriated by U.S. authorities during 2019, 85 percent were men over 18 years of age. Of the total number of repatriated migrants, only 6 percent were under 18 years old and 10 percent were women.
- In 2019, U.S. authorities returned 34 percent of all repatriated migrants to ports of entry in Tamaulipas, 31 percent to Baja California, and 17 percent to Sonora. These percentages remained relatively steady in 2020, except for Baja California, whose share dropped to 20 percent. After pausing returns to Mexico’s interior since May 2018, U.S. and Mexican authorities resumed their agreement to conduct repatriation flights in December 2019, increasing the number of migrants returned to airports in Jalisco, Mexico City, Michoacán, and Tabasco.
TAKEAWAY: Recent debates have centered on the growing number of refugees staying in Mexico or other migrants awaiting their U.S. asylum cases at the U.S.-Mexico border. But these trends underscore the added focus of Mexican returning migrants at time when migration flows appear to be rising once again. The latest apprehension figures at the U.S.-Mexico border through August 2020 indicate that while apprehensions of Central American migrants have fallen by 85 percent between fiscal years 2019 and 2020, apprehensions of Mexican migrants have increased by 30 percent. As Mexico continues to grapple with its changing migration landscape, developing programs and policies that support the reintegration of Mexican returnees, as well as of the other immigrant populations who are staying in the country, will be of critical importance for policymakers.
* Spotlight by Andrea Tanco, Associate Policy Analyst; Ana Paulina Ornelas Cruz, Research Consultant; and Ariel Ruiz Soto, Policy Analyst, at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute (MPI). MPI seeks to improve immigration and integration policies through authoritative research and analysis, opportunities for learning and dialogue, and the development of new ideas to address complex policy questions.Twitter: @migrationpolicy