In 2018, Mexico received 39 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status), 18.5% more than in 2017. This figure comprises 15.1% labour migrants, 50% family members (including accompanying family) and 14.9% humanitarian migrants. Around 2 900 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 36 000 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants.

Venezuela, the United States and Honduras were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2018. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Venezuela registered the strongest increase (2 900) and the United States the largest decrease (-200) in flows to Mexico compared to the previous year.

In 2019, the number of first asylum applicants increased by 140%, to reach around 70 000. The majority of applicants came from Honduras (30 000), El Salvador (9 000) and Cuba (8 700). The largest increase since 2018 concerned nationals of Honduras (+16 000). Of the 25 000 decisions taken in 2019, 49% were positive.

In 2019, Mexico hosted more than half a million legal foreigners, a 58% increase since 2015. The majority originated from the United States, Venezuela and Honduras. The Ministry of the Interior (Secretaría de Gobernación) estimated that around 300 000 migrants were in an irregular situation in 2017. Emigration and returning flows, mostly to and from the United States, remain significant as well as flows of refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from Central America.

While both migration policy and enforcement are subject areas of the Ministry of the Interior, which is in charge of the National Institute for Migration (INM) and the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR), political coordination is now shared with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who chairs the Intersecretarial Commission for Integral Attention in Migration Matters (Comisión Intersecretarial de Atención Integral en Materia Migratoria), established on 19 September 2019. This Commission is in charge of coordinating the implementation of the federal government’s migration policies, programmes and actions. The Commission is also responsible for the containment of irregular transit migration from Central America through the Southern Border, while all regular migration flows remain under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior.

First, in order to improve the control of irregular transit migration, in June 2019 the government appointed the newly created National Guard to reinforce the INM’s migration control operations. The National Guard can detain undocumented migrants in coordination with the INM. As a countermeasure, those who wish to remain in Mexico, are offered assistance and pathways to a regular migratory status and a full integration to the Mexican society.

Second, the Mexican Government accepted the unilateral Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) US policy, also known as Remain in Mexico. Refugees and asylum seekers to the United States are returned to Mexico to wait until their claims are processed by US courts. At the end of 2019, there was an estimated 70 000 asylum seekers in Mexican border cities awaiting US court dates. After being returned to Mexico, returnees under MPP were provided with a forma migratoria multiple, a 180-day visitor permit that does not give permission to work. Those who wish to remain in Mexico were offered pathways for regularisation, but this required them to waive their refugee claim in the United States.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) between Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore was implemented on 30 December 2018. This revised version of the original Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) offers business visitors, investors and skilled workers reciprocal access to labour markets; it did not change the immigration system prevailing in Mexico.

In March 2020, following the announcement by the US Government that all hearings under the Remain in Mexico programme were suspended and despite COVID-19 worldwide restrictions to travel, Mexico continued accepting refugee claims and provided assistance to secure the return of foreigners to their origin country.

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