A recent report from the Fronteras Project states that the number of Mexican asylum seekers has doubled due to the ongoing violence in that country. The report states that in FY 2010, about 3,200 Mexicans asked for asylum in the United States. Only 49 received asylum. In FY 2011, the report continues, 6,100 Mexicans filed for asylum and 104 were granted.
While there has been an increase in the number of asylum seekers, the data from the Fronteras Project is incomplete and paints a distorted picture.
For one thing, the number of asylum seekers in FY 2010 was actually 4,510. Apparently, the Fronteras Project used data from a January 2011 report, not the more up-to-date report from February 2012. Their data for FY 2011 is accurate: 6,133 Mexicans sought asylum and 104 were granted in Immigration Court. Thus, there was actually a 36% increase in the number of Mexicans claiming asylum in Immigration Court–a significant increase, but far less than the Fronteras Project reports.
Another problem is that the statistics from the Fronteras Project appear not to count Mexican asylum seekers who filed their applications affirmatively. It is not easy to find data on affirmative applications, but according to DHS, 143 Mexicans were granted asylum affirmatively in FY 2010 (meaning a total of 192 Mexicans received asylum in FY 2010 affirmatively and defensively). DHS has not yet published data on affirmative asylum approvals for FY 2011, nor has it made data available on the total number of Mexicans who filed affirmatively for asylum.
I suppose this is a lot of statistical mumbo jumbo just to show that the number of Mexican asylum cases increased 36% and not 100% as reported by the Fronteras Project, but the difference is pretty significant.
A second problem with the Fronteras Project report relates to the claim that the increase in defensive cases is caused by ongoing violence in Mexico. This claim is somewhat dubious. Many defensive asylum claims are filed when people are placed into removal proceedings. As DHS has been deporting large numbers of people during the last few years, it is possible that more of them are filing asylum as a defense to removal. This does not necessarily indicate an increase in the number of people afraid to return to Mexico. Rather, it may simply show that more Mexicans are being deported and they are filing for asylum in a last ditch effort to remain in the U.S.
Given the data available, I am simply not convinced that there has been a major increase in the number of asylum seekers from Mexico. Maybe when DHS releases the numbers for affirmative asylum applicants for FY 2011, we will learn something new (affirmative applicants are people who fled here and then affirmatively filed for asylum, so they are a better measure of people fleeing persecution than defensive applications). But I doubt it. Despite the growing violence in Mexico, the number of asylum seekers from that country has remained steady over the past decade. As far as I can tell, the long anticipated flood of Mexican asylum seekers has yet to materialized.