Migrants Face Harsh Treatment as Mexico Vows to Contain Them
(Bloomberg) -- A group of Haitian and Central American nationals faced Mexico’s harsh migration controls on Thursday just hours after President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador vowed to prevent their caravan from trekking further north.
The migrants, including women and children, were chased by federal agents and cornered by national guardsmen with riot shields as they made their way through the southern state of Chiapas. A video published by news website Animal Politico showed a man crying as he held a woman who appeared unconscious on the ground outside an immigration vehicle. It wasn’t clear what caused her to faint.
“I gave instructions that human rights should be respected, that nobody should be beaten, or injured, and that no migrant should be attacked and should lose their life,” Lopez Obrador said at his daily press briefing hours before the immigration roundup took place.
Mexico’s National Immigration Institute said Thursday it will review how its agents have acted. Earlier this week, the institute suspended two officials who were filmed beating and kicking a migrant in the head. The institute seeks to install what it called humanitarian camp sites in Chiapas to assist Haitian migrants, it said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that it remained committed to respecting migrants’ rights.
For decades, Mexico’s porous southern border has provided passage to migrants crossing into Mexico, though traversing the rest of the country has been more difficult. The first major, organized caravans occurred in 2018, as a public form of group migration intended to be safer than traveling undocumented as individuals and less costly than paying for smugglers.
But a stricter crackdown on such flows started in 2019 as Lopez Obrador, feeling the threat of tariff retaliation from former U.S. President Donald Trump, used his National Guard to curb migration. Lopez Obrador said Thursday his government sought to contain migrants in the southern part of the country for their own safety, to prevent them from becoming targets of organized crime groups, especially at the northern border.
The U.S. and Mexico have in recent months discussed investing more in Central America to address root causes of migration, including violence, impunity, and unemployment. Lopez Obrador said Thursday he’ll press U.S. President Joe Biden to grant six-month visas to Central Americans enrolled in a regional tree-planting program spearheaded by Mexico. He believes that it will help people stay in their home countries instead of attempting to enter the U.S.
The U.S. has not publicly responded to Lopez Obrador’s specific proposal. In the meantime thousands of citizens from Central America and other nations have sought to cross through Mexico, and officials’ detentions of migrants have soared this year.
In July alone, U.S. border officials reported over 200,000 detentions and encounters with migrants.
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