Migrants deported to Mexico face criminals and predatory officials

Migrants deported to Mexico face criminals and predatory officials

As the United States begins to impose border rules that make it harder for migrants to apply for asylum, many will likely face swift deportation to Mexico, where they will be vulnerable to criminal groups and corrupt officials, according to rights groups. humans.

Mexico’s role as Washington’s arm to stop migrants illegally making their way to the United States through Mexican territory will become more significant with Thursday’s suspension of a Covid-era policy known as Title 42, which stopped the entry of many migrants at the border and allowed US authorities to quickly expel them.

In talks last week with the Biden administration, Mexico said it would accept non-Mexican migrants sent back from the United States under the new rules and process them for Mexican asylum.

But if the asylum system in the United States is plagued by delays, the situation in Mexico is just as bad, with asylum cases taking years without resolution.

And many migrants driven to Mexican cities along the US border face daily horrors at the hands of criminal organizations and, in some cases, the same government agencies that Washington relies on to help stem the flow of migrants across the border, according to with human rights. groups.

Since President Biden took office in January 2021, there have been nearly 13,500 attacks against people deported from the United States to Mexico or prevented from crossing the border, according to a recent report by Human Rights First, an advocacy group.

The report said that, in some cases, Mexican authorities have colluded with criminal organizations to extort migrants.

Mexico’s National Institute of Migration and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to requests for comment on the government’s treatment of migrants.

“This country is not a safe country,” said Yuri Hurtado, a 26-year-old Colombian migrant, of Mexico.

She left her country in March with six members of her family to escape poverty and violence. She spends her days at a migrant shelter near the US border listening to threatening phone messages from members of a criminal group that Hurtado said kidnapped her relatives last week as they traveled by bus through Mexico.

The shelter where Hurtado is staying, Casa Migrante San Juan Diego, is in Matamoros, a northern Mexican town known for violence and just across the border from Brownsville, Texas.

Hurtado said the criminal group that held her two sisters, a brother-in-law and two nephews, aged 2 and 5, demanded that she pay $4,000 for their release or they would start harvesting her organs.

The sum is more than Hurtado said he could ever pay. Local police, she said, were unhelpful when she tried to file a report, a typical response from authorities, according to migrant rights groups.

“I am so scared of what happens at the border and yet I am also very scared of dying alone at the border,” she said, adding that she hoped her relatives would be released before she tried to cross the border. border.

Stories like Hurtado’s are not uncommon; Criminal groups often charge migrants fees to travel through Mexico and then kidnap them. More than 2,000 migrants have been kidnapped by criminal organizations in the past year, the Mexican government said last week.

At the same time, migrants are also vulnerable to being victimized by Mexico’s migration authorities.

“The abuses committed by state authorities themselves are systemic,” said Julia Neusner, a lawyer who co-wrote the Human Rights First report. “We heard hundreds and hundreds of stories of people who suffered harm directly at the hands of these state officials, including kidnapping, rape, sexual assault, robbery, extortion.”

When President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office in late 2018, he promised that Mexico would never be used as a club to “do the dirty work” of Washington’s immigration policy.

Instead, his government issued more visas to allow migrants to travel freely to Mexico and reach the US border.

But López Obrador soon discovered, like other Mexican presidents before him, that it is almost impossible for Mexico to forge a migration policy on its own.

In June 2019, President Donald J. Trump was threatening to apply tariffs to Mexico unless López Obrador cracks down on the thousands of migrants using Mexican humanitarian visas to go to the United States.

Mr. López Obrador acted quickly, sending thousands of troops to Mexico’s northern and southern borders to prevent migrants from entering the country or easily traveling to the United States. The Mexican National Guard, a militarized police force, was given authority to detain migrants, a power that was largely concentrated in the hands of migration officials.

“The immigration policy of the United States mobilized the Mexican government for its application”, said Neusner. “He is exporting our own border enforcement.”

The closure of legal routes within Mexico and routes into the United States has forced more migrants into the hands of ruthless smugglers, rights groups say.

Mexico’s closer alignment with the United States on enforcement has also led to a change in the government’s attitude toward migrants, some analysts said.

“The priority is no longer human rights and development and protection, as we started, but due to pressure from the United States, containment, arrests and expulsions were prioritized,” said Tonatiuh Guillén, who was the first commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission. Mexico Institute of Migration under the command of Mr. López Obrador until he was replaced by the former head of Mexico’s federal penitentiary system.

“Deploying the military as your primary migration enforcement tool sends a message to both migrants, asylum-seekers and society that migrants are a threat and should be treated as a security issue, like an invasion,” said Stephanie Brewer, Mexico director at the Washington Office on Latin America, a think tank.

“It undermines and weakens protections for your physical safety,” she added.

At the Casa Migrante San Juan Diego shelter in Matamoros, half a dozen migrants said this week that they or a family member had been kidnapped in recent days. They were afraid to venture outside the shelter after dark, fearing the criminal gangs that stalk the streets.

Shelter director José Luis Elias Rodriguez said he and his employees had been threatened by criminal groups.

But he vowed to continue helping migrants.

“If we leave, who helps the immigrants?” he asked. “Who lends a hand if we leave? Who gets up if we leave? Who will defend them if we leave?

Geysha Esprilla Meridith Kohut contributed reporting from Matamoros, Mexico.


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