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Mexican Migrants Outnumbering Asylum Seekers along US-MX Border

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MATAMOROS, TAMUALIPAS, Mex. – Central Americans are no longer the only ones waiting in large numbers to request asylum in the U.S. Mexicans are making up the majority of the crowd in Matamoros waiting on the lists to request asylum in the U.S.

A Chiapas father says as he holds his daughter, "I'm not going to say it's not good. It's a beautiful place, but the people there are bad, they rob, traffic weapons and drugs."

A fatal attack in Chiapas in late-September was the push the young family of four needed to emigrate. Danger permeated every aspect of life in Chamula.

The father who preferred not to disclose his identity to protect his family back home says there would be men threatening violence.

"They waited for you with a weapon. I didn't know them. You'd go to the supermarket and they would be closed, because they of fear," he says.

Cities in southern Mexico are emptying as thousands of families make the journey north.

Stephanie Leutert and her team working in UT Austin's Central America and Mexico Policy Initiative carried out a study of migrants along the northern border of Mexico with the United States.

She says they found "Eleven-thousand Mexican families. They were waiting to seek asylum out of 20,000 people across the whole border."

They're tracking those who show up at the border and get on a list to be processed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for asylum.

Last year, the majority of them were Central Americans. Now, nearly the majority of those waiting on the Matamoros list are Mexican asylum seekers.

Policies targeting Central Americans are not presenting barriers for Mexicans waiting to request asylum from the U.S.

Leutert says, "So even with all of these different policies in place that are trying to restrict asylum seekers, Mexican asylum seekers have still been largely exempt."

Other factors drawing people from Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca are violence and land displacement. Processing at bridges is lagging. For the Chiapas family of four it took nearly two months.

Tamaulipas presents dangers to migrants, but many are coming looking forward to what they may find on the other side.

The Chiapas wife held her months-old son in her arms. She says, "My parents were also poor. They couldn't pay for an education. I came here so my children could have a better education, better than I did."

CBP released the family into the U.S. pending immigration court proceedings. Many more are hoping for a similar ending to their journey from Mexico.

The report found most asylum seekers from Mexico are travelling in families rather than on their own.

About 20,000 migrants are estimated to be waiting along the Mexico border with the U.S. That does not include those who are not on the list or those who were sent back to wait in Mexico as part of the Migrant Protection Protocol.

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