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Migrants Find Mexico as a New Destination for Opportunities

In Saltillo, a city in northern Mexico, Honduran refugee Walter Banegas works in a factory, handling machinery and molding metal. Banegas, now 28, initially fled to the U.S. as a teenager to escape the reach of a powerful drug gang but was deported twice.

When faced with gang threats in Honduras again in 2021, Banegas chose to seek refuge in Mexico instead of the United States. With the help of a United Nations refugee program, Banegas gained refugee status in January and landed a job at Pace Industries, a metal casting manufacturer with operations in the U.S. and Mexico.

Mexico has long been known as a country of emigration and transit. However, in the last five years, it has increasingly become a destination for a growing number of refugees.

These individuals are attracted by its more lenient asylum system compared to the U.S. and the abundance of job opportunities resulting from the country’s labor shortage. Mexico’s refugee agency reported that the number of people receiving asylum has increased from a few hundred a decade ago to 27,000 in 2021.

This year alone, Mexico is expected to approve at least 20,000 asylum cases, with a large portion of refugees coming from countries such as Honduras, Haiti, Venezuela, El Salvador, and Cuba.

Credit: DepositPhotos

While the majority of migrants passing through Mexico continue north toward the U.S., the country has become a solid option for refugees due to its high labor demands.

Mexico currently has over one million job openings nationwide, with sectors such as tourism, agriculture, transportation, and manufacturing struggling to find workers. According to a survey conducted by business association Coparmex, manufacturing employers face the greatest difficulties in recruiting workers.

The anticipation of increased nearshoring, where companies relocate to Mexico to be closer to U.S. customers, could exacerbate the labor shortage further, according to the Mexican manufacturing association INDEX.

Read More:  Trump to Highlight Immigration Agenda at U.S.-Mexico Border Rally

Efforts are underway to encourage regional cooperation and facilitate resettlement of migrants in countries like Mexico, Costa Rica, and Colombia to reduce illegal migration into the U.S. The Mexican government is focusing on expanding work visa programs and connecting job-seeking migrants with employers, particularly to capitalize on nearshoring opportunities.

Collaborations with Guatemala aim to bring up to 20,000 workers annually to Mexico, with plans to eventually include Honduras and El Salvador. The head of Coparmex, Jose Medina Mora, commends the U.N. program that has benefitted refugees like Banegas, urging the Mexican government to expand work visa programs to quickly match migrants with employers and address the current job vacancies that remain unfilled.

Credit: DepositPhotos

The U.N. program, which aids refugees in relocating from southern to central and northern Mexico, provides financial assistance, helps with job placements, and assists with access to childcare, education, and healthcare. In 2022, the program successfully secured jobs for 5,500 refugees, with nearly 3,000 refugees finding employment so far this year.

Also Read:  Surging Numbers of Undocumented Immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico Border Exceed Annual U.S. Births

For Fernando Hernandez, a 24-year-old Honduran refugee, his initial plan was to quickly pass through southern Mexico with his partner and young daughter to reach the U.S.

However, after witnessing tragic incidents at the U.S. border through social media, Hernandez decided to seek asylum in Mexico. In February, their asylum request was approved, and with the assistance of the U.N., the family relocated to Monterrey, a city known for its industrial sector.

Hernandez began working at a convenience store before advancing to work in a factory and eventually becoming a cook at a P.F. Chang’s restaurant, earning around $225 per week. He expresses his gratitude for their current situation, stating that they have everything they need, including a home, food, and family.

Credit: DepositPhotos

Mexico’s increasing appeal as a destination for migrants provides them with an alternative to pursue opportunities and create a life outside of the U.S. The country’s labor demands, coupled with its more accessible asylum system, present hope and possibilities for those seeking refuge and a fresh start.

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