TREND: Children represent a large share of Mexico’s 1.2 million immigrant population. Although the number of immigrant children has remained relatively steady at 584,000, their share of the total immigrant population decreased from 58 percent in 2015 to 48 percent in 2020. Here are the key points about children immigrating, transiting, and returning to Mexico:
• U.S.-born immigrant children alone accounted for 44 percent of all immigrants in Mexico as of 2020. However, the share of this immigration population has decreased in the past five years from 551,000 in 2015 to 528,000 in 2020 as some of these children have grown up or left the country. Young immigrants from other countries (predominately from Latin America) have offset what would otherwise have been a steeper decline in the immigrant child population.
• Among the 528,000 U.S.-born children living in Mexico, 40 percent are younger than 10; 40 percent are between 10-14 years old, and 20 percent are ages 15-17. More than one-third of U.S.-born children live in the northern states of Baja California, Chihuahua, and Tamaulipas.
• The number of migrant children traveling through or attempting to reach Mexico also appears to be rising in 2021. During the first two months of 2021, Mexican authorities apprehended 2,000 migrant children, and official preliminary estimates suggest that this number increased sharply in March 2021. If the trend continues, the number of apprehensions may surpass the 12,000 children in all of 2020 but fall short of the 54,000 children in 2019.
• More than half of migrant children apprehended in 2020 were traveling with an adult companion, though the share who traveled unaccompanied grew slightly in the first two months 2021. At the same time, the largest number of migrant children apprehensions occurred in the border states of Chiapas and Tamaulipas in 2020 and the first two months of 2021.
• While it is too early to tell if the trend will persist, Mexican authorities returned a lower share of migrant children it apprehended (20 percent) in January and February 2021 than (61 percent) in all of 2020.
• The return of Mexican children is also worth noting: In 2020, the United States repatriated approximately 13,000 Mexican children, 75 percent of whom were unaccompanied. While from January through February 2021, about 2,000 Mexican children were repatriated by U.S. authorities and 83 percent of them were unaccompanied.
TAKEAWAY: As Mexico continues to formulate its migration and integration policies for migrants and returnees, it will be imperative to tailor these efforts and provide the adequate resources for state and local level governments so the special needs of the migrant and returnee children can be fulfilled.
* Spotlight by Ariel Ruiz Soto, Policy Analyst and Andrea Tanco, Associate 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