Migrants in Mexico demand protections amid growing uncertainty in status

Thousands of Central American migrants, stranded in Mexico, demand that the authorities accelerate the process to regularize their immigration status so that they can legally reside, transit and work throughout the country.

October 26, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Around 4,000 migrants, including women and children, are walking from the Tapachula municipality in the Chiapas state towards the capital Mexico City, to demand a response to their regularization procedures. Photo: Cuartoscuro

Amid an upsurge in the migration flow towards the US-Mexico border, on October 23, thousands of Central Americans, stranded in Mexico’s Tapachula municipality in the Chiapas state, left the municipality in a new migrant caravan headed for the capital Mexico City to demand a response to their regularization procedures. Under the banner of “March for Peace, Justice and the Freedom of Migrants,” they aim to walk about 1,160 kilometers and are demanding that the authorities allow them to move freely without repressing them.

The members of the caravan, largely made up of migrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, are demanding that the Mexican Commission for Aid to Refugees (COMAR) and the National Migration Institute (INM) accelerate the process to regularize their immigration status so that they can legally reside, transit and work throughout the country. As undocumented migrants, they are restricted to living and looking for jobs only in Tapachula. Many of them have been stuck in this situation for around two years. The majority of migrants have said that their purpose is to go to the United States, once they are granted safe conduct in Mexico. Previous such caravans last month had ended in repression and deportation of many.

Irineo Mújica, director of Pueblos Sin Fronteras, and Luis García Villagrán, director of the Centro de Dignificación Humana organizations have been leading the organizing efforts behind the caravan. The activists organized a hunger strike in September in rejection of the delay in attention to the documentation process of the migrants, highlighting the increasing precariousness in Tapachula due to an exceptional increase in immigrants arriving in the country.

The same morning that the caravan began its journey, in the town of Viva México, located about two and a half kilometers from Tapachula, the officials of the Highway Police and the National Guard tried to stop the caravan, but the contingent managed to advance. After struggling for a few minutes, most of the migrants broke the police fence and passed through the checkpoint, while the officials withdrew to avoid confrontations. According to reports, more than a hundred migrants were detained and at least one was injured.

According to the organizers, around 4,000 migrants of at least 11 nationalities, including over 1,000 women and children, are mobilizing in this caravan.

On the first day, the migrants arrived in the town of Álvaro Obregón and spent the night there. On the second day, the group continued its journey towards the town of Huehuetan. Yesterday, the caravan left from Huehuetan for the town of Huixtla. Today, they will continue advancing towards the capital.

“We are going to continue moving forward, we are going to ask for dialogue with the immigration authorities, we are going to walk in peace,” Villagrán told local media.

Meanwhile, Mujica stressed that “it is necessary to look for a place where we can be free. We will go to the Senate, the Parliament, the Inter-American Court, wherever they can listen to us so that they attend to all the migrants because Tapachula is only a jail.”

Since the beginning of this year, there has been a significant increase in the number of people wanting to migrate to the US, with the aim to apply for humanitarian asylum there and escape extreme poverty, violence, corruption, unemployment, and lack of opportunities in their own countries.

According to the INM, between January and August, 2021, over 147,000 undocumented migrants were arrested, three times more than in 2020 during the same period. Similarly, according to the data from the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the federal agency detained a record number of 1.3 million undocumented persons. The figure is the highest since March 2000.

The Mexican government signed the “Safe-Third Country” immigration agreement with the US under threats of economic sanctions during the former government of Donald Trump. For this reason, it has been forced to take measures to regulate the passage of migrants from crossing over to the United States. The government has announced various measures to aid the migrants and help them settle in Mexico, however, they are falling short in the face of the upsurge.

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