Mexico protects those without papers in word only

“Operations in secret places become human witch hunts”

You can give the government a 10 on its political message, but in fighting crime it doesn’t even attain zero, because it has not even made the attempt, the Jesuit explains. He adds that the country is now the destination for undocumented

Migrants in Tenosique

Migrants in front of La 72 shelter in Tenosique, Tabasco. Photo: Arturo Cano

By: Arturo Cano

Tenosique, Tabasco

The Mexican government deserves applause. Alejandro Olayo-Méndez, a researcher that in the past year has toured the migratory routes five times, does not doubt: the human rights discourse that guides politics on the matter, amplified by the media, has achieved fixing in public opinion the idea that the human rights of migrants are respected here: in Mexico they are not arrested but rather “secured” or “rescued;” one is not deported here, but rather “assisted in the return” of the undocumented Central Americans that fill up the migratory stations (they are prisoners, but it doesn’t call them prisons).

Thus, although one cannot congratulate the Mexican government for its success in protecting migrants or for its efficiency in fighting human traffickers, “we can applaud its consistent political discourse.”

Since last September, the Jesuit priest Olayo-Méndez tours the migratory routes that cross Mexico. He does it because of a commitment that, as a religious man, he has to the migrants and also because on that journey he documents the doctoral thesis that he prepares at Oxford University. His theme is just about the migratory routes and the humanitarian aid that an army of civil organisms deploys, a good part of it under the auspices of the Catholic Church, around the country.

The mirage and the Reality

From the highest functionary to the immigration agent that works on the highways, the investigator explains, the Mexican government has a consistent discourse on paper, in words that are utilized in the day-to-day treatment of migrants. That consistency, which is amplified in the media, the Jesuit maintains, has created “the mirage that Mexico is in the vanguard in the matter of the human rights of migrants.”

Nevertheless, “when you go into the field you discover that there is a big gap between the political discourse and the reality. The reality is violent, oppressive. On some occasions, the operations in secret places or at transit sites where there are no witnesses literally become human witch hunts.”

–One component of the Southern Border Program (SBP) is the fight against criminals that attack the migrants.

–If you can give the government a 10 on its discourse, it doesn’t even get a zero in fighting crime, because it has not even made an attempt. The National Human Rights Commission has identified the most dangerous points; all the shelters have located the zones where there is a high level of violence, and the Mexican government has not done anything. If you need to know, you can go to the offices of the Attorney General of the Republic in San Luis Potosí, in Ixtepec, wherever you want, in order to see all the complaints that have been filed. Lamentably all of the Mexican government’s effort has been directed to impeding migrants from climbing onto the train, and not to permitting them to do what they have always done, which is to try to use the means available to continue their path. I encountered people in San Luis Potosí or Saltillo that have walked for 40 or 60 days.

Migrants now come to stay

 In his travels, Olayo-Méndez has talked with hundreds of migrants and has observed the conditions of their violent passage. From that experience has emerges his conviction that, although the government doesn’t recognize it, the reality is that “Mexico is now a destination country” for those without papers.

That’s what the field evidence shows and that’s what the Central American migrants state more and more. In La 72, the shelter for undocumented migrants on this border, six out of every 10 of these travelers he talks to have no intention of going to the United States. A good part of them flee from the gang violence that has made Honduras the world’s most violent country, followed closely by El Salvador and Guatemala.

–The migrants come to stay?

–There are some of them that now want to stay in Mexico. It’s a logical option. The Central American migrant starts to embrace staying in Mexico to work as a real option México. It’s becoming more frequent to find migrants that say: “I go where I find work.” It’s lovely for Mexico to talk about the Koreans that want to come, about the Spanish. But these Central American people, who are much more vulnerable, now see Mexico as an option.

Re-naming the Suchiate

–The criticism of the SBP could be summed up in a phrase: they want to rename the Suchiate (River) and call it the Río Grande.

–The expression is not far from reality. In practice, the southern border of the United States has been moved. I would dare to say to Puebla. That is really where the big dyke is that has the control belts that we see in this zone and on the Isthmus. The police deliver the migrants to the immigration agents, so that in some way they may be “rescued.”

“In this phenomenon of externalizing the border, Mexico does the dirty work for the United States or rather seeks to order the flow. The question is for what reason.”


–If one reads the Southern Border Program in the context of the National Development Plan that we have, there is the intention of an ordering to facilitate a series of developments. All this effort is for improving the infrastructure and controlling the migratory flow has to do with an extractivist project. Why are they going to invest 58 million dollars for monitoring the train? Well, because it will carry precious cargos.

–The government insists that by impeding them from climbing onto the train it avoids deaths and mutilations.

–The discourse is “we don’t want them to climb onto the train for their security.” But the reality is that when the migrant needs to continue on his way and they don’t let him climb on, then he walks. By having to walk, they are obviously exposed to greater violence, because they use more dangerous routes where they are easy prey for the criminals, although many times they don’t have anything… they take a backpack from them. The stated objective is to offer them security, but paradoxically they are made more vulnerable.

–But they continue crossing, despite everything.

–Calculations of the Pew Hispanic Center indicate that the population of Central Americans in the United States has increased 20 percent in recent years. That means that even with Gatekeeper and all the U.S. efforts, the people continue coming.

“What happens to those that don’t cross? It’s difficult to have solid numbers, but a good part now stay in Mexico. And those are patterns that are seen in Europe. When economic migrants cannot cross into Europe, they see Libya as a second ­option.”

The Mexican government’s response has been poor in the face of this new reality. Olayo-Méndez underscores the fact that civilian organisms and the Catholic Church maintain the network of shelters that exist at more than 80 points in the country. It’s within that network where he has found that the big shelters, for example in Saltillo, have 20 or 30 migrants waiting that have asked for shelter.

–The scenario of the drama that exists in Europe dominates the media.

–The Southern Border Program is being converted into a reproduction of the national security model of the United States as well as that of Europe. It has a facade of human rights, but in practice it’s nothing but militarizing the border, using all the police bodies to control the flows, it is simply a reproduction of models that have already been put into effect in other regions.

“However, Mexico has a total ambivalence towards the movement of migrants. It cannot openly repress them because it has 11 million undocumented migrants in the United States. It would be very inconsistent to openly repress a migrant population. And on the other side there is a complete inability of the Central American countries to respond to the needs of their citizens in the migrant stations. Each consul has two minutes to attend to a migrant, if that’s what he wants to do.”


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

En español:




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