The people running migrant shelters in southern Mexico say that a recent increase of 10 percent in the number of men traveling with children points to a reversal of the usual pattern in which fathers set out first for the United States and their wives and kids follow.
The last few weeks have seen scores of men with children arriving in Tapachula, near the border with Guatemala, hoping to cross Mexico and reach the US.
“Usually, it’s the mom who travels alone with the child,” Lorenza Obdulia Reyes Nuñez, director of the Todo por Ellos (Everything for Them) shelter, tells EFE.
Humberto Rubio, a Guatemalan waiter in his mid-30s, made the trip to Tapachula with his two sons, ages 8 and 9.
“I can reach the United States in a restaurant earning dollars and being able to rise up a little and offer my children a better future,” he said.
Even so, Rubio said he was open to the idea of making a new life for his family in Mexico if they can’t gain entry to the US.
“If it’s not the United States, Mexico has many states where they have good restaurants. There is Monterrey, Guadalajara, Tijuana. For me, returning is not an option,” he told EFE.
Migrants find themselves having to rethink their strategies in light of changes in US immigration policy.
Last month saw the end of Title 42, a measure used by immigration authorities to summarily deport 2.8 million asylum-seekers over the last three years.
Title 42 is a provision of a 1944 public health law that allows the exclusion of individuals when “there is serious danger of the introduction of (a communicable) disease into the United States.”
In 2020, then-President Donald Trump, a Republican, invoked Title 42 to order the immediate expulsion of foreigners arriving at the border to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
But when the US pandemic public health emergency lapsed on May 11, Title 42 was no longer applicable, and the asylum process went back to being regulated by Title 8 of immigration law.
Under Title 8, asylum applicants who are turned down can face not only deportation, but years-long bans on trying again, and Democratic President Joe Biden has sent additional personnel to the border to expedite expulsions.
At the practical level, the migrants with children in Mexico face the problem of what to do with the kids when they are seeking sustenance for the family.
Todo por Ellos is doing its part by providing daycare for the children while their fathers are working, looking for work, or waiting in line at Mexican immigration offices.
Reyes Nuñez says that Todo por Ellos is currently offering refuge to migrants from Peru, Cuba, Venezuela, and Guatemala, yet there are not enough beds to accommodate all the people who need shelter. (EFE)