Our migrant witch hunts

Casa de la Misericordia Migrant House in Arriaga, Chiapas, Mexico.

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

In the infinite cascade of misfortunes that characterize the experiences of Central American migration, the law of the henhouse operates during the trip to the tide of thousands that flee from their towns and regions through a country, ours, that does not attend to them as persons with rights. To the contrary: it pursues, exploits, executes or expels them through the laws of the State or against them. Let’s not forget that we are one of the countries that more of their own population abandon in search of security or work; they will be pursued as soon as they cross the northern border. And with that we would have to worry that something is rotten everywhere. But our territory is also the scene of a deaf and brutal persecution against tens of thousands of brothers from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. If not the fatal threat from criminal groups along their journey, they suffer from the immigration and police institutions, which do their part, now we find out that it was conceded by the government in the Mérida Initiative. It’s State policy even if it violates the law.

The Amnesty International (AI) researcher for Mexico, Madeleine Penman, documents that: “the Mexican authorities are hard at work, but discretely, in order to prevent people that flee from Central America staying in Mexico.” And much less, it’s appropriate to add, that they reach the northern border and cross it. Our territory, mined by inequality and a war that doesn’t dare to say its name, is a deadly trap for the Central Americans, who are not just numbers. Our Syria is in Honduras, and our bad vibe is worse than that of the white European.

“In 2017 the Mexican government deported 80,353 people for having entered the country without having the necessary papers or because of other immigration irregularities,” Penman writes. “On many occasions those deportations not only violate Mexican law, but also international law, putting the lives of those deported at risk” (Amnesty International, March 16, 2018).

Thousands of people flee from countries “that are counted among the most violent on the planet.” But Mexico, not humanitarian, treats them like de-humanized garbage. They’re worth less than anyone. They will be raped, kidnapped and eliminated. They are enslaved or dead, or properly arrested and returned to their hell of origin. “International organizations and agencies of the United Nations calculate that up to half of the approximately 500,000 people that cross Mexico’s southern border each year may need international protection.”

Ignorance of the law on the part of the Mexican citizenry and the migrants themselves –that don’t know their rights or “if they speak out they are ignored”– permit that, “although they have the right to request asylum in Mexico, the Mexican State deports many of them without taking into account the risk that they run. Known as ‘devolution’ or forcible return, this practice is illegal according to international law and Mexican legislation,” AI’s researcher for Mexico emphasizes.

Said organization conducted a survey during 2017 with 500 people from Central America in Mexico: “120 provided solid evidence of forcible return. Besides, during our investigations, we encountered numerous testimonies from individuals that were pressured to sign a deportation paper against their will. Likewise, of the 297 people that told us that the National Institute of Migration arrested them, 75 per cent say that they were not informed of their right to request asylum in Mexico.”

Not all is rotten, in Tabasco, Chiapas, Veracruz, Oaxaca and Coahuila there are hearts that still know how to feel. As they know well the modest migrant houses, which fortunately exist in Mexico, the thousands of fugitives from the Maras and the poverty, the easy trigger and the extractive model’s paramilitaries possess rights that almost no one here concedes to them. They are not illegal but are treated as if they were, the same on La Bestia [1] and the trails as in immigration checkpoints and stations. Penman explains that every person subject to a deportation order has rights under the international law, “including legal assistance, being heard by a competent authority and having the opportunity to challenge their deportation.” This “simply does not exist” for thousands of Central Americans.

Our extreme racism permits this. The neoliberal State itself demolished traditional Mexican generosity for persecuted peoples the last century permitted sheltering Spanish, Jews, Argentines, Uruguayans or Chileans that fled from the horror. Today, to top it off, the Central Americans are perceived as inferior and dangerous. That way it’s easier to mistreat them or allow that others do it.

[1] La Bestia (The Beast) is the name of the train that migrants hop on in Chiapas. It carries them north through Mexico towards the U.S. border.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Monday, April 9, 2018


Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: