MEXICO CITY — When American and Mexican officials prepared to meet in Guatemala in July, one issue in particular was weighing on the United States.
A caravan of hundreds of Central American migrants had trekked through Mexico a few months before, seeking passage into the United States. American officials wanted to know: Would Mexico agree to force such migrants to apply for asylum there, instead of letting them enter the United States?
The Mexicans said no.
Today, with many thousands more in transit, by far the largest single movement of migrants north in decades, the pressure to resolve the issue has reached new heights.
With a proposal broached last July known as a “safe third country agreement” seemingly off the table — it has been rejected by Mexico’s president-elect — Mexico again finds its migration system in a state of crisis, and in the cross hairs of American officials.
An estimated 6,000 migrants have entered Mexico in recent days, part of a new, and much larger, caravan of migrants fleeing the grinding poverty and violence of El Salvador, Guatemala and, for most of them, Honduras.
In anticipation of their arrival at the United States border, President Trump has pressured Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico to halt their passage. But while Mexico has long bent to the migration mandates of the United States, the sheer number of those fleeing this time around has presented new complications.
Ever since 2014, when at the urging of the Obama administration the Mexican authorities began to crack down on illegal migration, migrants have been ensnared in a vast dragnet along Mexico’s southern border.