The US Is Sending Migrants To The Same Mexican Cities It Advises Its Own Citizens To Avoid Due To Unprecedented Violence
Cartel violence and gun battles have killed at least three people this week in the Mexican border city Nuevo Laredo. Now, the United States consulate has issued a security alert, warning employees to take extra precautions as more violence looms.
While government employees can expect some protections, asylum-seeking migrants who were sent to the region under the Migrant Protections Protocol (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, have not been extended such kindness.
Under MPP, migrants who want to apply for asylum in the United States must await their hearings and cases in Mexico. According to Reuters, President Donald Trump has expressed an urge to designate cartels as terrorist organizations due to increasing cruelties. In November, cartels murdered three women and six children with dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship.
U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo issues statement on Twitter.
“SECURITY ALERT: The Consulate has received reports of multiple gunfights throughout the city of Nuevo Laredo. U.S. government personnel are advised to shelter in place,” the tweet read.
The consulate advised employees to take shelter and notify others of their whereabouts. Today, Twitter users in the region reported hearing gunfire and attacks in Nuevo Laredo. Francisco Cabeza de Vaca, the governor of Tamaulipas, the state where Nuevo Laredo is located, said he held the cartel responsible in a series of tweets.
“THERE IS NO TRUCE AGAINST THE VIOLENT – Following the attacks on the State Police of #Tamaulipas by the CDN (Cartel del Norte), Governor @fgcabezadevaca endorses his commitment to safeguarding peace and the rule of law using all the force of the state,” Cabeza de Vaca said according to a tweet translated by the Yucatan Times.
Migrants in Nuevo Laredo have become easy targets of the cartel.
Violence and targeted attacks of migrants have occurred in the region since the summer. According to CBS, as of October, over 51,000 asylum seekers have been sent to Mexico under MPP. In August, NPR reported that around 4,500 had been sent to Nuevo Laredo nicknamed los caminos de carteles.
The area is essentially a smuggling route for cartels and now it is where vulnerable migrants are dropped off. Asylum-seekers are left to fend for themselves in one of six available shelters in the dangerous city as they await court dates in the U.S. up to four months away.
“Nuevo Laredo is more dangerous than San Pedro Sula, Honduras,” Cesar Antunes, a migrant dumped in the area told NPR, “which is where I fled from.”
The cartel is able to run without impunity. Violence breaks out and ordinary civilians are the collateral. Sometimes they are targets of kidnapping and extortion plots. Mexico’s National Immigration Institute provides migrants with free bus trips to safer areas like Monterrey and Tapachula. However, these bus trips have become cartel targets too.
According to NPR, in one incident cartel members hijacked a bus and kidnapped a dozen migrants then drove off. Cesar Antunes was on the bus.
“In this area right here this is safety for them, but if you just walk out that door it is not safe, that the cartels come by to pick them up to kidnap them,” Marvin Torres, a migrant living at a Nuevo Laredo shelter, told CBS.
Despite numerous incidents of extortion, violence, and kidnapping U.S. Customs and Border Protection says they had no idea migrants are targets of the cartel.
Acting Commissioner of CBP Mark Morgan told NPR in August that MPP was a “game-changer” because it reduced the number of migrants in CBP custody. When asked about the violence against migrants MPP has caused, Morgan feigned ignorance.
“I haven’t heard anything like that,” Morgan said. “Not with respect to the MPP program. We have received no reports of kidnappings and extortion of migrants. Those are just rumors. You can’t believe everything those people say.”
Perhaps, Morgan is the one spreading conspiracy theories. Liceth Morales and her 6-year-old son were kidnapped for three weeks by the cartel, forcing her family in Texas to pay $8,000 in ransom money to free her.
“When they released us, we immediately crossed the bridge to the U.S. to ask for asylum,” she says. “But they sent me right back over here.”
Morales decided to just go back home to Choluteca where her small store had been repeatedly robbed. Compared to waiting in Nuevo Laredo for two months, it was the safer alternative. The result of MPP is that many migrants have decided to just go back home. Many migrant advocates feel that the Mexican government has made Nuevo Laredo the home of Central American asylum-seekers because the Mexican government never wanted them there in the first place.
“[It] is the perfect excuse to get rid of them because the government doesn’t want them here,” Father Julio Lopez, director of the Nazareth Migrant House, told NPR.