MEXICO CITY — A migrant shelter in southern Mexico called La 72 has for years been a popular way station for those traveling from Central America to the United States. Last year it received a record number of visitors, sometimes sheltering more than 2,000 a month.
In recent weeks, however, that traffic has come to a grinding halt, and even gone into reverse.
Since late March, amid the coronavirus pandemic, no more than 100 migrants have passed through the shelter. And nearly all were heading south, trying to get back to their homes in Central America.
“We’ve never seen this before,” said Ramón Márquez, the former director of the shelter. “I’ve never seen anything slow migration like the coronavirus.”
Border closures, suspended asylum programs, interruptions in global transportation and stay-at-home lockdowns have drastically curbed migration around the world, particularly from poorer nations to rich ones.
In Latin America, once-crowded migratory routes that led from South America, through Central America and Mexico and to the United States have gone quiet, with the Trump administration seizing on the virus to close the border to almost all migrants.