Traveling through Mexico to reach the United States border can be an incredibly dangerous journey, and new data suggests that the number of migrants who have died or gone missing on their way to the U.S. is higher than previously estimated. Their deaths highlight the widespread violence in Central America many are seeking to escape.
Almost 4,000 migrants have died or gone missing on their way to the U.S. while traveling through Mexico in the past four years, according to the Associated Press. That's 1,573 more than the United Nation's previous estimate — and the AP acknowledges that the true number of missing or dead migrants is likely higher than 4,000.
The Trump administration's immigration policies have increasingly made it more difficult for migrants to cross the U.S.-Mexico border and seek asylum. President Donald Trump has proposed working out a deal with Mexico that would require migrants to stay in Mexico while their asylum applications are processed across the border, and more than 6,000 migrants have been stuck in Tijuana for weeks, as The New York Times reports. While some decided to take one-year humanitarian visas from the Mexican government that allow them to stay temporarily, the new data on missing and murdered migrants sheds light on what dangers they could face in Mexico.
Traveling to the U.S. through Mexico can be more dangerous than other migrant routes worldwide because of the prevalence of drug trafficking and gang violence, according to the AP's report. More than 37,000 people have gone missing throughout the country due to this violence, which the AP notes makes it even harder for people to track down missing relatives.
The Brookings Institute, a nonprofit think tank, calls the notion that people from Central America come to the U.S. primarily for economic opportunity "outdated." Its website explains that waiting for a visa "can result in death, rape, or forcible recruitment into crime."
Nearly 70 percent of migrants entering Mexico on their way to the U.S. reported being victims of violence during their journey in 2015, according to a Doctors Without Borders report. Nearly one-third of the women surveyed said they had been sexually abused.
While this violence happens both in and outside of Mexico, the U.S. government forcing people to stay in Mexico for longer periods of time effectively forces people to remain in dangerous situations. Though President Trump erroneously claimed the recent migrant caravan was full of "stone cold criminals," immigration advocates argue that they're simply trying to escape violence.
"The Trump administration is using the caravan to advance its anti-immigration agenda," Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council, said in a statement last month. "With these actions, the administration is￼ closing the doors on those in need of protection. This is contrary to American values." She added that the White House's move to restrict access to asylum at the border will "only worsen the situation."
As the administration continues to ramp up its anti-immigration agenda, thousands of migrants remain stuck on the southern side of the border, unsure if they'll ever make it to the U.S.