Centro Científico de Excelencia, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte

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Mexico’s Migratory Detention System

Libro electrónico
Ficha bibliográfica
  • Leutert Stephanie
  • Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs The University of Texas at Austin
  • El Colegio de la Frontera Norte
  • Paso Libre
  • Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law

México, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-951006-02-0

Peso: 5.6 MB

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This report examines the evolution of Mexico’s migratory detention system, particularly with respect to legislative changes in 2008 and 2011 that decriminalized migration. Until 2008, irregular migration was a criminal offense, punishable with fines and jail time. In 2008, Mexican policymakers removed the prison sentences attached to irregular migration and turned it into an administrative infraction. This change was solidified in the 2011 Migratory Act. However, despite Mexico’s decriminalization of irregular migration, migrants continue to be detained in prison-like detention centers. This report examines Mexico’s current detention system and evaluates detention conditions across the country.

The report’s first chapter outlines the regional context behind Central American migration and the forces driving Central Americans into Mexico. The second chapter analyzes the legal frameworks that have shaped the detention system, focusing on the disconnect between detention center operations and the language outlined in the 2011 Migratory Act. For example, the Mexican Constitution states that individuals should not be deprived of their liberty for committing administrative infractions. However, Mexican officials continue to use the detention system to detain people who commit administrative infractions related to migration laws. The third chapter explores the current structure of Mexico’s detention system. In 2005, Mexico’s detention system expanded its capacity from 2,000 individuals to more than 4,000 today. The highest concentrations of detention facilities are along Mexico’s southern and northern borders. However, there are ‘other points’ of processing throughout the country, where INM detains migrants sometimes hours away from the nearest detention center. This report uses INM data to track detention times for migrants, with most Central Americans spending approximately a week in detention before being deported. The fourth chapter details conditions within these detention centers. Despite the 2011 Migratory Act containing language regarding migrants’ rights in detention, conditions in detention centers vary widely across states, due to the lack of enforceable standards and little internal monitoring. There are numerous instances of migrants having inadequate food, hygiene, medical and legal support, and interpreters. High-risk groups such as women, indigenous people, children, and LGBTI individuals are not always guaranteed their legally mandated rights and protections. This report concludes with recommendations for improvements in three areas: 1) aligning penalties for irregular migration with those of other administrative infractions; 2) ensuring that conditions and practices in detention centers are consistent with the Migratory Act; and 3) standardizing data reporting practices across states to increase the amount of publicly available data. Together, these recommendations aim to take the first steps toward improving Mexico’s migratory detention system.

Tabla de contenido

Table of Contents

Table of Acronyms ix


Forward xi


Executive Summary xiii


Chapter 1: Current Migration Context

    Migration from the Northern Triangle


Chapter 2: Legal Framework

    The Constitution

    1974 General Law of Population

    Migratory Act of 2011 


Chapter 3: Current Snapshot of Detention Centers

   Other Points of Processing

   Provisional Centers

   Detention Centers

   Duration of Detention

   Alternatives to Detention Centers


Chapter 4: Analysis of Current Situation & Conditions in Detention Centers

   Provisional Centers

   Detention Centers

   High Risk Groups

   DIF Shelters

   Monitoring and Evaluation

Chapter 5: Recommendations




End notes