EL PASO, Texas — A new poll published Wednesday by the newspaper Reforma shows a majority of Mexicans believe Central Americans are a burden to their country and should be deported.

The survey states that more people than not feel safer with the creation of the new National Guard, and they approve of the way President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has treated migrants.

The poll says that 55 percent of respondents favor deportation, while 33 percent are for granting temporary asylum to the Central Americans, and only 7 percent would give them legal residence in Mexico.

Likewise, 64 percent say migrants are a burden and cost Mexican citizens jobs, while 20 percent said they contribute to the country with their work and talent.

Josiah Heyman, professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso, said that while many Mexicans may be sympathetic to the migrants, Mexico is a country with a strong sense of identity and nationalism.

“I think they see themselves are being very different from Central Americans. So I wouldn’t necessarily expect Mexicans to have the same views of migrants from Central America as, say (Mexican-Americans), the vast majority of whom have a recent migration experience or ancestry,” Heyman said.

I think they see themselves as being very different from Central Americans. …”

Josiah Heyman, professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso

The UTEP professor said Mexicans generally have treated the Central American migrants well, but they see the migrant surge as an additional burden in a country with great unmet needs in social services. “The Central American migration is one more weight laid on the shoulders of the long-suffering Mexican people,” he added.

Antonio Herrera, the leader of a Salvadoran, social services nonprofit in Dallas, said he’s not surprised at the results of the Mexican newspaper poll.

“We saw these attitudes when the first caravans from Central America started arriving in Tijuana, Mexico,” said Herrera, director of Monsignor Romero Community Center.

In November, Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum told reporters that the caravans arriving in his city were no longer welcome. Gastelum described the caravans as a “horde” infiltrated by criminals who posed a threat to Tijuana residents.

“Tijuana is a city of immigrants, but we don’t want them in this way,” Gastelum told Milenio TV. “You’re going to tell me we have to respect human rights, but human rights are for law-abiding humans.”

In Juarez, Mayor Armando Cabada has taken a different approach, opening temporary shelters at the height of the migrant surge and providing security and food to private shelters even now. However, interviews done by various KTSM staff members show many in Juarez are beginning to feel uncomfortable with the resources the city has spent on the migrants ($450,000 as of the end of June).

Carlos Marentes, director of the nonprofit Agricultural Border Workers Center in El Paso, said most people of Mexican descent on the border don’t see the Central American migrants as a burden.

“In El Paso, there is a strong sense of solidarity toward all migrants. I know because people have come to this center asking where they can find the migrants or the detention centers so they can take water and other aid,” Marentes said. “Here on the border we remember that ourselves or our parents came from Mexico as immigrants. In fact, there is a strong sense of indignation regarding the treatment of migrants in detention centers, particularly the children, and also those who have died on the way. It is a tragedy.”

Herrera, whose nonprofit assists Salvadoran migrants in North Texas but has been involved in communitywide Latino activism, said migration is a global phenomenon, and that Mexicans and Central Americans migrate to the United States for the same reasons.

“We are leaving our countries because we have no jobs and need a secure place for our families to live, especially because of the street gangs,” he said. “It’s much the same as the Mexicans and other people who come here.”

Heyman said Mexico’s post-June 7 crackdown on Central Americans and other migrants is not a response to public opinion polls, but to pressure from the United States.

“It is being driven by the presidency of the United States; Mexico is being pushed around by the United States. That’s the way it has been for a long time … the Central American (surge) has brought on one more episode of Mexico being pushed around by the U.S., and that may make them feel resentful of Central Americans,” he said.

Other findings of the Reforma poll include:

  • 44% of respondents believe Lopez Obrador is providing fair treatment to migrants (against 23% who disagree).
  • 45% say they feel safer after the creation of the National Guard — soldiers that have been assigned to patrol the Mexico-Guatemala border as well as the northern border. 14% of people polled say they feel less safe.
  • 70% approve of Lopez Obrador’s job as president (8% less than in March of 2019).
  • And almost twice as many people (42% vs. 24%) think Mexico has a bad relationship with the United States as opposed to good relations.