Under Pressure From Trump, Mexican Soldiers Are Making Life For Migrants Passing Through Mexico A Living Hell
The struggles that migrants face in their journey from Central America to the US-Mexico border has long been a dangerous one. Under threats from smugglers and coyotes to corrupt government officials, physical violence, extreme heat, lack of food and water, it’s a journey that has claimed many lives.
However, under a recent deal between the US and Mexican governments, the trip north has become increasingly more difficult thanks to increased enforcement from Mexican authorities.
Under pressure from the US, Mexico is launching major crackdowns against migrants.
About 100 Mexican soldiers and immigration agents raided a freight train in the southern state of Chiapas on Thursday and detained dozens of Central American migrants riding atop the cars. Such raids had been rare since the last crackdown on migrants in 2014. But under increasing U.S. pressure to reduce the flow of hundreds of thousands of Central Americans through Mexican territory, Mexico’s government has stepped up enforcement.
In a traumatic scene filmed by Associated Press journalists, the train rolled to a stop in a rural area, and then soldiers climbed ladders to the top of freight cars shouting, “This is the army, you’re surrounded!”
Groups of migrants tried to flee by running along the tops of freight cars, while others hurried down to the ground and headed into the jungle. One soldier was seen wrestling a young man into a waiting immigration van by the neck. Agents filled three such vehicles with migrants.
At least some of the troops wore armbands of Mexico’s newly formed National Guard.
The government says it has deployed thousands of National Guard agents across the country with supporting immigration enforcement.
The raid came the same day authorities in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz detained more than 450 migrants in a series of operations.
The raids included the arrest of nearly 260 migrants who were taken from hotels, motels and the main bus station in the city of Veracruz.
“We have been making detentions in the entire state,” said Edgar González Suárez, the Immigration Institute’s delegate for Veracruz. He called the raids in the Veracruz city “perhaps the biggest operation” to take place there, and said most of the migrants were Hondurans and Guatemalans.
Meanwhile, photographers are traveling with the caravan to document their bravery amid the struggles.
Despite the risk of being turned back, thrown in a detention center, violence, and death, tens of thousands of migrants make the perilous journey. Why do they do it?
Many travelers have died on the journey – some were mugged, some kidnapped by cartels. The risks are too many for any family to consider undertaking this journey entirely on their own.
“Pueblo sin Fronteras” (also known as, “People without Borders”) is an NGO that has been organizing similar caravans for several years. They carefully pick the travel route in order to avoid the cartel-dominated zones as much as possible and make sure to keep migrants on the road only during daylight hours.
Migrants in the caravan often take their strength from their numbers and manage to survive its hardships through solidarity. On cold nights they huddle in groups and during the day they share the little stock they have to last the long march. They take turns carrying babies and the carefully-chosen belongings they decided not to leave behind. Knowing that memories they hold on to from their previous lives could make their future lives harder to reach, they took with them as little as possible.
They do all of this to make the dream of reaching the US come true. And they’ll continue the struggle and the dangerous journey despite increased threats from Mexican authorities.