Mexico Detains Migrants in Crackdown 06/24 06:44
ARRIAGA, Mexico (AP) -- Authorities reinforced efforts over the weekend to
deter Central Americans and others from crossing Mexico to reach the United
States, detaining migrants in the south and stationing National Guardsmen along
the Rio Grande in the north.
In Arriaga, a town in the southern state of Chiapas, The Associated Press
saw about 100 migrants bused to detention Sunday, while Milenio TV reported
that 146 more were pulled from a private home in the central state of Queretaro
and more than 100 were taken away from a hotel in the Gulf state of Veracruz.
Pressured by the U.S., Mexico's government has deployed some 6,000 agents of
the National Guard, its new militarized policing force, along its southern and
northern borders this month.
In Ciudad Juarez, just south of El Paso, Texas, National Guardsmen turned
back migrants trying to cross the border over the weekend. The guardsmen
patrolled along the Rio Grande with assault rifles.
"The function of these brigades is to try to educate and inhibit people who
are at risk," said Luis Mario Dena Torres, representative of the Chihuahua
state governor in Ciudad Juarez.
Many of the National Guardsmen are soldiers and police officers who now wear
black armbands indicating they are part of the National Guard.
Some Mexicans worry that the increased enforcement is an overreach.
"The National Guard, in theory, shouldn't be repressing those who want to
cross to the United States," said Isabel Sanchez, coordinator for a Ciudad
Juarez civic group concerned with security and justice.
More broadly, however, stiffer immigration enforcement has popular support
in Mexico. More than half the Mexicans surveyed by the newspaper El Universal
earlier in June said that authorities should not allow migrants to enter the
country and that those found traveling through Mexico without visas should be
Residents of Arriaga expressed a mixture of concern for the migrants they
have grown accustomed to hosting and relief that officials are looking to get a
better handle on migrant flows.
"As a resident, sometimes you have distrust because with the necessity that
they have, they could try to rob or do something to you," said Rogelio Perez,
an accountant. "They're human beings and they need help, but Mexico can barely
Migrants have long congregated in Arriaga to hop on a freight train known as
"The Beast." Migrants would pile onto train cars, sometimes being maimed or
killed when they fell off. Authorities started pulling migrants off the train
in mid-2014, under pressure to reduce flows to the U.S.
Still, Arriaga remains a strategic point on the migrant trail. Over the
weekend, there were no migrants riding atop the trains that pulled in and out
Since January, Mexico has detained more than 74,000 migrants and deported
over 53,000, according to the latest figures available. Those numbers are
expected to rise when June figures are released.
Luis Arbey Perez, a civil rights advocate, corroborated that five
immigration vans carried about 100 migrants from Arriaga to the southern border
with Guatemala early Sunday. He worries that the National Guard deployment,
together with heightened inspections of passenger vehicles, will push migrants
into more dangerous modes of travel.
"There is more persecution, more detentions, but the people keep coming," he
said. "What rises is the risk."
Dozens of families have been found packed tight into semi-trailers in recent
weeks, while travel in secret compartments of vehicles is also common. Mexican
authorities have also broken up recent caravans of more than 100 migrants
traveling in packs for greater safety.
Last week, President Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador instructed private bus
companies to begin checking identifications of those buying bus tickets, in an
effort to crackdown on human smuggling.
Significant numbers of migrants appear to still be crossing into Mexico, but
they are traveling in smaller groups and under the radar.
Elias Camacho, coordinator of the 84-bed Hogar de la Misericordia migrant
shelter in Arriaga, said that on average at least 15 migrants show up each day
at his shelter. He said private homes in the town also take in migrants.
Honduran migrant Edwin Cruz, 22, said conditions in his country will
continue to propel Hondurans north.
At least three people were killed in protests across Honduras last week that
demanded the resignation of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernndez.
Violence, gang threats and poverty plague the country.
Cruz said he spotted at least nine checkpoints on his way north from
Mexico's border with Guatemala. To avoid detection, he crossed through
mountains and swamp rather than more visible highways. He also said he traveled
by taxi and train.
"It has become more complicated, but the necessities of the countries are
increasing as well. So we prefer to take the risk than to stay there," said
Cruz, who hoped to make it to Tennessee.