Foto: Forbes México.

The migration from Mexico to the United States exposes lives at risk for the ‘American Dream’, with the highest migration flow recorded in 2023 and an increase in unaccompanied minors migrating alone, facing violence and risks during their journey.

Yamiri Rodríguez Madrid


The International Organization for Migration (IOM) revealed that during 2023, the largest migratory flow in recent history occurred, reaching approximately 700,000 migrants who crossed Mexican territory, mainly from Venezuela, Honduras, and Guatemala.

To put this into perspective, just the state of Puebla, which has no coastline and is not on Mexico’s borders, reported conducting the humanitarian rescue of 2,501 foreign migrant individuals during the month of January of the current year. According to information from the INM Representation Office in Puebla, those who received assistance included 306 women and 989 adult men traveling alone, as well as 1,205 individuals in 292 family units and one unaccompanied minor.

A growing concern for Mexican authorities is the increasing number of minors who are now migrating alone. On March 13, the National Institute of Migration (INM), in coordination with the Secretariat of the Navy (SEMAR), through the Mexican Navy and the government of Honduras, carried out the humanitarian return of 41 minors to their country.

Natalia left El Salvador a year ago with her three children aged 8, 6, and 5, destined for the United States. They came with 15 others, hitchhiking with truck drivers until they reached a coffee-growing town in Mexico with fewer than 90,000 inhabitants. In Coatepec, where she now lives «temporarily,» there is no industry, no sea; moreover, it is over 2,000 kilometers from the northern border. They have survived for 12 months begging for coins at a crossroads, enduring insults and threats that «immigration will get them,» even though the nearest Migration office is about 150 kilometers from that point.

Another concern of the authorities is the violence directed at migrants. Recent statements by former U.S. President Donald Trump, who said that some immigrants are not people, alongside warnings of bloodshed if he does not win the November elections.

None of this discourages Natalia; she continues to collect coins to reach her destination: «We are not criminals, and for those who say so, may God bless them.»

This is the story of the Salvadoran mother and the other migrant minors


Natalia arrived in Coatepec a year ago, a municipality in Veracruz that is not a border crossing point. She did not arrive alone. She traveled for several weeks nearly 1,600 kilometers with her three young children and 15 other migrants, intending to reach the United States.

She admits to living in fear because she is constantly threatened with being reported to immigration police, although they have minimal presence in this village. She does not want her face to be seen; before giving the interview, she asks if this will cause them problems, if immigration will come for them, or if they will be recognized in their country. Typically, she stands for five or six hours with the children at a street corner at the town’s entrance, where kind-hearted people bring them food, clothing, and toys for the little ones, but others insult them and look at them with disdain.

They are not the only family venturing to migrate in search of a better life. In 2023, Mexican authorities reported that from January 1st to December 25th, there was regular entry of 40,802,601 national and foreign individuals. Additionally, through Beta Groups, they accounted for 230,877 assists to irregular migrant individuals of various nationalities.

Within this universe, 106,778 minors were identified, of whom 76,464 were under 11 years old, and 30,314 were between 12 and 17 years old. All of them came under the care of the Comprehensive Family Development System (DIF).

The year 2024 has begun with a significant number of apprehensions, with an increasing presence of minors and complete families. One of the largest occurred on March 8th, when the Mexican government repatriated 106 unaccompanied minors to Guatemala. The National Institute of Migration (INM) and the Secretary of the Navy (Semar) transported the girls, boys, and adolescents on three flights of the Mexican Navy to Guatemala City’s «La Aurora» International Airport.


All of the minors under 18 years old were under the protection of the State of Sonora’s Office for the Protection of Girls, Boys, and Adolescents, as they were found without adult companionship at the time of their rescue at different points along Mexico’s northern border. The 13 females and 87 male minors were transported by Child Protection Officers (OPI) and Federal Migration Agents (AFM) from INM,» the authority reported.

The first intervention was on January 6th, when a 25-year-old woman and her three minor children from Guatemala were abandoned in the desert area of Mexicali, Baja California, in the northern part of the country.

«Here, get off, walk straight, and you will find the border where you can cross to the United States,» the taxi driver told me, but he left me on the roadside along with my 2, 4, and 8-year-old children,» the detained woman recounted.

In the darkness and cold weather, the Guatemalan family walked for about three hours, and there was nothing visible dividing one country from another. Concerned for her children’s safety, the woman made a call from her cell phone to the emergency number 9-1-1.

The Mexicali Control, Command, Communication, and Computing Center (C4) received the call for assistance; however, they could not provide a reference for their location for immediate tracking. Migration agents were informed by Mexicali C4 authorities of the situation and made a telephone contact with the woman, who was interviewed to provide details about her surroundings to determine her location.

With the provided information, Beta Group elements and institute agents had an approximate location and went to the area with elements from the National Defense Secretariat (Sedena) and National Guard (GN).

After a journey of about 4 kilometers, the woman and her children were located in the desert area. Their health condition was stable, and they only expressed being tired, cold, and scared. They were loaded into the INM unit to be transferred to the Mexicali Border Port facilities, where they were provided with food before arranging their admission to a shelter.

The following day, on January 7th, a woman and four minors aged 2, 7, 10, and 14, showed advanced symptoms of hypothermia as they had been in the water for about seven hours waiting to cross into the United States at the Puente 1 border crossing. Near the riverbank on the American side, the family requested help, and institute agents approached them via an airboat; the woman carried her 2-year-old son (originally from San Luis Potosí, in central Mexico) to prevent him from getting wet, while the other minors (born in Coahuila) stood in water up to their waists.

According to the officers’ testimony, visibly tired and cold, the mother and her children walked to the airboat where thermal blankets were immediately provided to regain body heat; they were transported to solid ground on the Mexican side. An ambulance from the fire department arrived to check their health status, and they were subsequently taken to a hospital for treatment.

On January 9th, assistance was provided to 182 migrant individuals who were transported in overcrowded conditions on a passenger bus in Las Choapas municipality, Veracruz state. On board were citizens from Guatemala and Ecuador, including eight unaccompanied minors, 15 families, as well as 28 women and 107 adult men traveling alone.

On January 12th, also in Veracruz but in Córdoba municipality, 114 migrant individuals from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador were rescued irregularly on a passenger bus.


The authority counted 34 girls, boys, and adolescents, as well as 31 women and 49 adult men. Out of this total, 74 were from Guatemala, 36 from Honduras, and four from El Salvador; further verification revealed that within the group, 28 individuals were distributed among 11 families, and 19 minors were traveling alone.

On January 14th, 726 migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Ecuador, and Nicaragua were attended to in a warehouse in Cuaxomulco, Tlaxcala, in central Mexico. Among them were 75 unaccompanied minors, 108 women, 399 lone adult men, and 144 individuals comprising 45 families.

By January 19th, Veracruz state police assisted and attended to 371 migrant individuals of various nationalities in two operations: 334 were from Guatemala, eight from the Dominican Republic, eight from Bangladesh, six each from Cuba and China, and two each from El Salvador and Nicaragua. Among them were 79 girls, boys, and adolescents (33 of whom were traveling alone), 91 women, and 201 adult men; notably, 87 of those rescued were traveling in 37 families.

On January 22nd, a tragedy occurred. Beta Group personnel in Chiapas assisted Civil Protection personnel in rescuing and confirmed that 23 migrants from Guatemala were being transported illegally in the cargo box of a truck that overturned near the municipality of Emiliano Zapata.

Migration agents counted ten adult women, three older men, and ten minors (six female and four male). Seven of the injured were taken to the Hospital Jesús Gilberto Gómez Maza in the capital, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, while the remaining 16 had minor injuries that did not require hospitalization.

On January 27th, 12 Cubans adrift were rescued by crew members of a tourist service vessel. They included 5 women, one of whom was pregnant, and 7 adult men, assisted offshore near the coasts of Cancún.

On February 4th, again in Veracruz, 64 foreign migrant individuals were assisted after being transported in overcrowded conditions in two cargo vans. Initially appearing to carry only plastic grilles and crates, the vehicles were inspected using National Guard Intelligence Directorate’s X-ray equipment, revealing irregularities in the cargo.

The vehicles’ compartments had been modified to simulate merchandise transport, but upon halting and opening the rear, it was discovered that 22 girls, boys, and adolescents, as well as 14 women and 28 adult men, were being transported. Among them, 14 individuals were traveling in five family groups, and 14 minors were unaccompanied. They were 52 persons from Guatemala, six from El Salvador, four from Honduras, and two from Ecuador, subsequently transferred to the Acayucan Migrant Station.

On February 11th, 156 individuals from eight countries, including Bangladesh, Nepal, and Brazil, were located in two events: firstly, on the Córdoba-Orizaba highway in the state of Veracruz, where 132 foreign citizens were overcrowded in a Torton-type vehicle; and secondly, where 24 Guatemalan citizens were being transported in the cabin of a trailer. In both cases, there were 29 migrant minors, 24 of whom were traveling alone.

On April 16th, in Yucatán, a state located in the Mexican Caribbean, the National Institute of Migration initiated the Administrative Migration Procedure (PAM) for 150 migrants from eight nationalities (five from the Americas and three from Asia), who were located by the state’s Citizen Security Secretariat.

There were 109 unaccompanied adults (30 women and 79 men) from Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Pakistan, Jordan, and India. Additionally, ten family units comprising 41 individuals, including eleven unaccompanied minors, were illegally transported in two passenger buses.

Migrants, between discrimination and violence

Despite spending 12 months doing the same with her children, Natalia is saving money to continue her journey towards the United States. In her small hometown of Usulatán, she used to work helping with household chores. If she achieves her goal, she says she wants to do the same there, wherever she reaches in the neighboring northern country.

«Here, we ask for money. We don’t steal from anyone or bother anyone. Just now, someone passed by and said rude things to me, that they will report me to Immigration; truthfully, there are very bad people, but I don’t pay attention to them. To those who say we come to steal, may God bless them,» she considered.

The President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, recently declared that migrants are decent people, people who want to work. «One characteristic of migrants is that they are very hardworking, very hardworking, regardless of nationality. They come to work, just like our countrymen; that’s how all migrants in the world are,» he affirmed.

In this regard, Agustín Morales Mena, an academic at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences (FCPyS) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), revealed that in Mexico, 6 out of 10 migrants in shelters have experienced discrimination due to their condition, according to a survey conducted in 2023 in the context of the evaluation and baseline of Communication for Development (C4D) campaigns, part of the Regional Migration Program of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) of the UN.

He explained that the most discriminated profiles in Mexico are Africans, Central Americans, South Americans, Caribbeans, and Asians.

«There is xenophobia towards them, that is, fear or rejection of what is different, new, and diverse. In contrast, the most accepted are Americans, Canadians, and Europeans; with them, the opposite occurs, there is xenophilia, a concept that refers to attraction or fascination with what is different, new, and diverse,» he detailed.

The last survey conducted by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) on discrimination was in 2022 and revealed that among migrants aged 15 and over, 28.8% reported having been victims of discrimination; of this percentage, 32.5% mentioned it was due to their way of dressing or personal appearance (tattoos, clothing, hairstyle, piercings), while 26.6% said the reason was their weight or height.

The coordinator of the PRI Parliamentary Group, Rubén Moreira Valdez, pointed out the need to implement a policy that protects and provides security to those who cross our territory in search of a better quality of life, as he affirmed that Mexico has become the third country where migrants are most at risk, and there are no decent conditions for them to live.

«There are criminal gangs operating at the borders, promising migrants to take them to the neighboring country and then murdering them. The National Guard does nothing, and the Migration Institute is worthless,» he complained.

Meanwhile, federal deputy Sofía Carvajal Isunza assured that civil society organizations are the ones who have best attended to migrants, providing them with temporary shelter, food, clothing, footwear, and psychological assistance. However, she noted that the problem is that these places no longer have the funds to continue their work and do not receive resources from the government.

This is exacerbated by the discourse of former US President Donald Trump on March 16th at Dayton International Airport in Vandalia, Ohio, where he once again referred to immigrants as «animals.»

Natalia, while eating pizza with her children sitting on the sidewalk, says she didn’t hear about that.

The ones who stay

There is another aspect to the migration issue. Cirio Ruiz González, president of the Regional Coffee Council of Coatepec, the southeastern municipality of Mexico where Natalia and her three young children are now, lamented the lack of support from authorities for coffee-producing towns, which results in the migration of young people.

«So, we are staying in the countryside, which is one of the things that also leaves us unprotected and makes it difficult to protect all this coffee, cultural, economic, and environmental wealth, because the young people leave and we are left with the elderly, children, and the sick,» he explained.

He indicated that women represent 30 percent of the workforce in the coffee fields in the Coatepec region, due to the migration of men.

«If in the ejido (rural community) they earn, which is very high for the region, 300 pesos per day; they work about six hours, seven hours at most, and earn 300 pesos. Well, they are going with permission to the United States, or they have gone for a six-month season, where they are paid 14, 16 dollars per hour. So, it’s a thousand percent more,» he said.

There is a need to improve the organization of producers and change outdated laws that allow coffee adulteration and lack of quality standards to regulate imports.

«In the Coatepec region, there is a study by Master Erika Valencia. In her thesis, she says that in the Coatepec region, 30 percent of the coffee plantations are now represented by women. So, it is not something that has happened voluntarily. It is a forced issue because if the men go to work outside, the women stay, and there has been no choice but for gender equality to reach 30 percent in regional coffee farming,» emphasized Cirio Ruiz.

In the end, the Chamber of Deputies, through Deputy Alma Griselda Valencia Medina, announced that they will hold a forum on the migration phenomenon at the southern border, involving representatives of civil society groups, public organizations, academics, specialized legislative committees, consulates, and international organizations, in order to gather proposals that lead to reforms for its attention.

«The migratory flow has increased currently due to economic and political reasons, differences in the payment of performed work, the situation of violence in the countries of migrant origin, and climate changes that cause droughts and disrupt productive processes in agricultural regions, among others,» he detailed.


Meanwhile, Deputy Brígido Moreno Hernández emphasized that there is also a humanitarian crisis on the northern border of Mexico due to the thousands who arrive in search of crossing into the United States.

«In addition to the great physical effort involved in their journey, they are affected by harsh weather conditions and lack of resources to meet basic needs. In some cases, they are discriminated against and attacked by criminals, subjected to robberies, extortions, and even kidnappings. What is experienced is more complex than it seems, as it not only puts at risk the integrity of those attempting to cross into US territory but also has serious repercussions on the local population,» he noted.

Natalia admits that their journey to this point was fortunate, as they were not targeted for extortion or subjected to physical or sexual violence. «I am always cautious. We don’t stay overnight on the streets.»

While this unfolds, she only hopes to collect more coins to feed all four of them today and continue their journey towards the Mexico-US border.


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