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Apr 13, 20

Increased Border Militarization Under the Reign of Mexico’s Social-Democratic Administration

A story from the January 2020 refugee caravan, told by an El Salvadorian Migrant. Prepared by Tapachula Migrant Solidarity. Describes the increasing militarization and brutality of Mexico as a proxy-border for the United States under the reign of Andres Manuel Lopez Abrador (AMLO) and the horrors of the migrant detention camps.

In January 2020, the largest refugee caravan traveling during the reign of the Andres Manuel Lopez Abrador (AMLO) presidency walked and hitched rides from Honduras and El Salvador to Mexico. The caravan of over 5,000 people was able to walk from its starting points in El Salvador and Honduras to two different entry points on the Mexican Border—Tecun Uman in the south and El Ceibo in the north. Days before the arrival of the caravan, AMLO issued a statement saying he would happily welcome those in the caravan to be citizens of Mexico and work in his new created job program.

AMLO rapidly fell back on his word. Members of the caravan were met by dozens of Mexican National Guard and US ICE agents. Migrants were pepper sprayed, tear gassed, tazed, detained, or deported back to their home territories. Some migrants were lured onto busses with the promise of being taken to shelters, but were instead taken to detention centers. Many migrants who attempted to cross through legal ports of entry (arbitrarily placed at random points along the border) were also deported to their home countries and not given an option to apply for Mexican refuge or told about any of the new so-called job programs promised by AMLO.

In light of the Corona-Virus pandemic, the border crisis has grown even further since the country borders have been shut down and AMLO has closed the ability for anyone to be able to apply for Mexican refuge for the indefinite future.

In the past year, one of the most horrific migrant crises that we have ever seen has been enacted. The Mexican-Guatemalan border is rapidly militarizing and becoming more and more reminiscent of the Mexican-US border every day. Over the past year, the Mexican-Guatemalan has become almost a complete standstill for thousands of stranded migrants from all over the world who are fleeing their home territories just to stay alive. In light of the Corona-Virus pandemic, the border crisis has grown even further since the country borders have been shut down and AMLO has closed the ability for anyone to be able to apply for Mexican refuge for the indefinite future.

The following is a story told by an El Salvadorian person that we have known for a while now. To this day she is still stuck in Villa Hermosa, Tabasco awaiting papers to be allowed to travel farther north. This is a translated version of her story being a part of the January 2020 caravan.

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In the past year, one of the most horrific migrant crises that we have ever seen has been enacted. The Mexican-Guatemalan border is rapidly militarizing and becoming more and more reminiscent of the Mexican-US border every day. The border has become a standstill point for thousands of stranded migrants from all over the world who are fleeing their home territories just to stay alive. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #fucktrump #dignidadrebelde #Chiapas #Migrants #CaravanaMigrante #NoBordersNoWalls #SinFronteras #Riots #Protests #SigloXXI #MigrantSolidarity #SocialJustice #Riseup #DefendtheSacred #uronstolenland #Resist #USgenocide #Refugees #NoOneIsIllegalOnStolenLand #DefendTheSacred #SmashImperialism #BlackLivesMatter #NativeLivesMatter #everydayrefugees #tapachulachiapas #humanrights #everydaysocialjustice #everydaylafrontera

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Testimony from an El Salvadorian Migrant on the January 2020 Caravan

Here is a little of my story. I came here escaping from my country because of problems with gangs. Crime is very common in my country. I think my country has one of the highest rates of violence. It is one of the most violent countries. There is a lot of crime. Your life is at risk whenever you go out on the street. You can not go out on the streets without the fear that you will not come home because something could happen to you. Because you know that you live in an unsafe country where the gangs govern and you never know what will happen.

My experience in the caravan… I think I have many ugly memories, very ugly,  what happened in the caravan was very unpleasant. Everything was a failure, many suffering people. It was not a caravan. You could not call that a caravan, because it was practically only groups of people that were arriving at the border. There they came together only so they would be let through, so that they would open the door to be let in, but unfortunately it didn’t happen like that.

It’s a beautiful experience, and at the same time very sad. Sad because on one side you get to know people, you make friends, you know stories from other people that have gone through the same situations in their life.  You know so many things about people and in a way you feel familiar with all the people that are running away from their county for one reason or another.

I think the border of Mexico has changed a lot since three years ago, and more than anything in these last months it’s more reinforced. All the borders, all the entry points, are heavily guarded. I think this is possibly because the mass migration is very extreme. I feel it’s like a strategy to try to control some of the flow of migration, but they don’t understand that the people are only looking to get to a better place and feel safe with their families.

I think the border of Mexico has changed a lot since three years ago…I feel it’s like a strategy to try to control some of the flow of migration, but they don’t understand that the people are only looking to get to a better place and feel safe with their families.

I have had the bad luck of interacting with a few officials, with authorities from Mexico and I can not tell you that they were good people, because they have treated me badly. The first time they grabbed be in Tapachula, the man from Migration grabbed me by my shirt and pulled me, and the woman hit me to get me into the “perrera” (dog kennel), as they call it, to take me to the migration station in Tapachula. I have not spoken much with those people, because whenever someone from another country asks them something they always act like they don’t want to respond because they don’t like them. Because they don’t like that they are entering their countries or for things like that. I don’t know if all the authorities here in Mexico are like that, but they are not very nice people, at least not with migrants. I have seen how they humiliate them and say ugly things.

I know that there are ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials working here in Mexico. In my case and in the case of other people that have tried to cross into the United States, we know these authorities because of their uniforms. It is not the complete uniform, but it does have a shirt where it says ICE. The shirt is light blue. Myself and others have seen it, and we can say “Yes, I have seen a person with this uniform, the uniform of ICE.”  Effectively I think that yes, that ICE is working here with the Mexican authorities. I think that the wall Donald Trump promised to get is nothing more than Mexico, its secure border.

When we reached the border of El Ceibo we were about 800 people. We were waiting for Mexico to give us a response in a very peaceful and nonviolent way, without shouting, without insults; in a very educated and courteous manner. The representatives in charge of the caravan spoke with the Mexican authorities and asked for free passage, and they said yes, ok, that Mexico opens its doors to the caravan. But they did not provide transport to a safer place.

They told us that we were being taken to a shelter. At no point did Mexico say that they were going to take us to a station or a migration center. At no moment did I hear that. They only told us we were being taken to a shelter, that there we would be together, that the families would be together, but they didn’t do that. They separated the families, separated the men and the women and we ended up in a migration station. I think this is what upset all the people.

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On Thursday morning this large contingent of the Central American caravan attempted to cross into Chiapas again after being violently turned away two days prior. This time they made it successfully across the Suchiate River and were walking north on the highway towards Tapachula when National Guard, working closely with ICE and Mexican Police, blockaded the highway with INM buses, sprang out from the jungle on both sides and approached the front of the caravan, spraying tear gas into the faces of those in front including women and children. They forced 800 of them into INM buses and took them to the Siglo XXI detention center in Tapachula where they were then deported by bus back to Honduras. A migrant that was apart of the group explains how AMLO had lied in his press announcement offering those in the caravan asylum and jobs in Mexico publicly but then attacking them and deporting them once they got there. “Over at the Mexican border, they tricked us. They told us that in Mexico they were going to give us jobs, that there was employment for 4,500 people. And it was a lie that there were three states ready to receive all the Hondurans who wanted to work there. But they only deceived us.” -José Henríquez In the video they are screaming “queremos paz” we want peace. The caravans came in peace and were seeking a world for their children and womxn to live where they wouldn’t be in constant fatal conditions. This round of the caravans may have been dismantled due to AMLO’s cowardliness and the orders of US fascism but the resistance will always live on. And never forget, THE UNITED STATES CREATED THE CONDITIONS IN OTHER COUNTRIES THAT MAKE PEOPLE NATIVE TO THOSE PLACES NOT ABLE TO SURVIVE THERE IN THEIR HOMES. *this video is not our own, ty to a friend for sending* . . . . . . . . . . #honduras #Chiapas #Migrants #CaravanaMigrante #NoBordersNoWalls #SinFronteras #Riots #Protests #SigloXXI #MigrantSolidarity #SocialJustice #Riseup #DefendtheSacred #uronstolenland #Resist #USgenocide #Refugees #NoOneIsIllegalOnStolenLand #DefendTheSacred #SmashImperialism #BlackLivesMatter #everydaylafrontera #everydayrefugees #tapachulachiapas #humanrights #everydaysocialjustice

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We went on the last bus. We were the last group of people that entered at the border in El Ceibo. We went at night. We didn’t know when we were going to arrive. The migration agents said, “It’s only five hours to get there.” We left from the border at 11:00 PM, we got to the migration station at 5:00 AM. They took away our things, our belongings, and they stored them. They put us in the women’s cell, and the first thing I thought was that these people were going to revolt, because the men were yelling very loudly.

They were shouting insults to the migration authorities. Like why were they there? That this wasn’t the deal. That this wasn’t what they had promised. That all we wanted was to pass through freely. That they open the doors for us to pass through the “street” of Mexico, just pass through. Nothing more.

When we got to the detention center we were the last bus, the last group of people that entered.  I think the Hondurans and the El Salvadoranians, all the people that were there, these 800 people more or less, I think they were only waiting for the last group to arrive to begin to find a way to leave there because no one wanted to be deported to their country and because there were people that could not return to their country for questions of security.

They began to jump over walls, began to yell things at the migration officials. The migration and federal personnel left running because they knew all these people were very angry about what had happened, for what they were doing to us. We all asked for information. We all wanted to know the reason we were there. We had arrived there by deception.

The people were very angry because of this. The men began to jump the walls, began to open doors, take tools, they knocked over walls, and they got the women and everyone ran outside. Outside there were the marines waiting at the gate. Everyone was looking for a way to get out. I think some people managed to escape. The Hondurans and the federal and state police began to hit each other. They wanted to leave forcibly. They were only blocking the way, nothing more. We only asked to pass freely. They began to throw rocks and the police responded with the same rocks that the Hondurans had thrown.

I saw how they beat many people, also with those sticks that they go around carrying. They beat people up. They didn’t care if they were women or children. I saw many children fall, getting hurt and crying out desperately.

The authorities applied a lot of violence against the people. The people resisted being arrested and being mistreated. The people did not want to return to their countries with all that it took to traverse the trajectory to arrive here. And the people that don’t have money, that don’t have enough to eat, that don’t have the money to go around staying in hotels; these are the people that resist when an agent, an authority, touches them, because they think they are going to return them to their country.

The police and the authorities used force. They used violence against the people. I believe it doesn’t have to be like that, because there has to be someone, some strong authority that has command here in the country to talk with us. That will talk with those in charge from there, and arrive at an agreement. But not take us with lies to a detention center. That they promise to take us to a shelter, to an immigrant shelter, so we could continue our way, but it was all the opposite. They took us to a migration station. That was not good.

I saw how they beat many people, also with those sticks that they go around carrying. They beat people up. They didn’t care if they were women or children. I saw many children fall, getting hurt and crying out desperately.

In the detention center I knew this girl, this child called Darelia, from Honduras. She was pregnant and everything that happened there affected her greatly. Her delivery was premature and she had her baby at seven months there in the migration station. That was very bad on her nerves and all that.

I didn’t see how they attended to her, but from what I could tell is that she entered in the night because she had her child in the ambulance, leaving the migration center, and the next day she was already back. They brought her back to the migration center. That is no way to care for a child. That is no way to care for a newborn. It’s a place where there are many sick people, who all have viruses, that have so many things. It’s not a hygienic place, but they don’t care about that.

She gave birth in the hospital, and the next day she was back. I think it would have been a violation of her rights, something like that because she had the right to rest. For being a single mother, being an immigrant, being alone in a country that isn’t hers. I think she had the right to be in a separate place with her newborn, born at seven months, her baby.

The mother and the baby did not receive the attention that they really deserved. They had them locked up in the migration station for seven days with us. Afterwards they released her to the street. She didn’t have money. She was alone. She was a single mother, a newborn months premature and the people there didn’t care about her when they let her out. Where could she go?  They said that because her baby was born in Mexico that it’s Mexican and that they didn’t have to be there.Yes, that’s true, but they didn’t have to release her to the street. They knew she didn’t have money, that she didn’t have anything. She lost her belongings in the mass escape that was in the annex, because they robbed everything. They robbed telephones, they robbed things, they opened backpacks, they robbed pretty things and all that.

Everyone lost their things and later no one was accountable for it. The mother and the baby, now we are all together with other girls. We are renting an apartment here in Villa Hermosa. We are together with two Cuban girls. They are now beginning a new life. I can’t tell you that they are okay because we don’t have the resources that we need to have the baby in the best conditions.

None of us that were in the migration station had the right to leave to the outside world. At no moment could anyone see the light of day in all the time we were held there. This was effectively a detention, it was not a shelter. It was not a migrant shelter. It was a migrant detention center. There we were locked up and they didn’t let us leave for anything.

Actually, I don’t think that anyone that was inside had the right or access to a lawyer or any authority that would give us information on why we were there, what would happen to us, or what they were going to do with us. Nobody gave us information on this. They only came and locked us up as if we were animals and they had us there without any motive. Without telling us, without explaining why we were in detention. No one told us anything. The people were very desperate because nobody came to tell us why we were there or what was going to happen to us. People were left with this doubt and stress.

I believe this new policy that Mexico has of not letting humanitarian or religious organizations into the detention centers or anywhere… I believe that it is nothing but a strategy that they are using so that the people that come here quickly become desperate, that they don’t receive any kind of help so that the people will lose hope, be disappointed, and that they shouldn’t come to these countries. But they don’t understand that the people would prefer to die here trying to find a better life then stay in their countries knowing that the next morning their children can die, that the next morning their children are going to be forced into gangs.

This is what the people don’t understand because they see this more like a business, like a way to have good relations with other countries, like the United States and they don’t care. They put aside humanity, peoples rights, they put aside helping one’s neighbor.

They separated me from my friends in the migration center. They sent me with my friend Jairo to another migration center. They separated me from my friends, from my partner Cristian. They deported him without giving him the opportunity to plead for refuge or something here. I feel bad for that and I still don’t understand why they did it.

They took me and my friend to another migration center. They didn’t tell us why. They took us out and told us they are going to take us for a medical checkup. They told us, “Bring your things.” They took us to another migration center and they didn’t tell us anything. When we asked they only said, “Why do you ask so much,” and that it’s not their job to give out information. They told me that I don’t have any option other than to ask for my deportation or asylum. That the asylum will take a lot of time. They told me all kinds of things. I told them, “I can’t return to my country. I’m going to ask for asylum here.”

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The few thousand that have been trapped in Tecun Uman from the Refugee Caravan for the past couple days were able to walk up the river and successfully cross all together into Mexico this morning without any conflict. ICE was at the river and has been working with INM and National Guard to watch over the process. The caravan has been walking up the highway towards Tapachula for the past few hours. Militares have been following but not detaining anyone. Mexican Asylum papers are being handed out to all the migrants and being stamped by COMAR once signed. We are being told by human rights organizations on the ground that these papers are real and should mean anyone signing them should be submitting to the government that they want to start their applications for Mexican Asylum (or Refuge as they call it in Mexico). Since this past summer, INM has been detaining most people applying for Mexican refuge and making them fill out their applications while being detained inside of Siglo XXI anywhere from 2-60 business days. After they have filled out their application in detention they are then told they must remain in Tapachula and come into the COMAR office every week to sign their names until they are finally given word that they have either been accepted for refuge or not. If they are accepted, then they are able to travel freely in Mexico but are banned from applying for asylum in the United States. If they are not accepted then they are detained in Siglo XXI and deported by bus or plane depending on country of origin. Siglo XXI only has an official capacity of 900 people but INM has been known to force as many as 3000 into the building. INM buses are waiting just after Metapa and are following the caravan. We are being given no official information but thinking that the caravan might get stopped soon and taken in buses to Siglo XXI for those who want to go through with the Mexican Refuge Process. There are still over 1500 people making their way north from Honduras and El Salvador who plan to arrive in Tecun Uman in the next two days who will most likely be met with similar backlash and policy enforcement from ICE and INM. #caravanamigrante #everydaylafrontera

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My procedure began and meanwhile they have not asked my friend anything. The days pass by and they have him like that, without asking him “Do you what asylum? Do you want to be deported or what?” It’s like a method that they use so that people will feel despair. To have people enclosed like that for fun. To have them there for no reason. It’s like a method, a strategy that they use to make people hopeless.

I have to go to sign in every Tuesday at the migration center here in Villa Hermosa. I can’t leave here from Villa Hermosa. They give me a paper that says that I’m in a migration process here. There on the paper it says 45 “able” days. I don’t understand. Here there are people that say they have signed in for six months… eight months of going to sign in and I have not seen anyone that says “Yes. Now I have my papers. Now I have my visitors card to travel farther north.”

The Mexican government promised to give work visas to all of the people that entered with the caravan. They have not said a thing. Since I was jailed they never gave information about it… that they were going to give work visas for the five southern states of Mexico. We never saw any of that. The people also despaired because of this. Because they never gave us any information about anything. Apparently what they wanted was for people to lose all hope.

There, in detention, little by little, the people began getting the courage to return to their countries. The people preferred to return to their countries than be trapped there. There were people that had children… and the food… breakfast was brought at 11:00 AM, lunch at 4:00 or 5:00 PM, dinner was brought at 10:00 PM. The people with their children were getting desperate. Their children got sick. The people began to ask to be returned to their country, until there were few people staying. But I believe that was also a method that they used. I think the Mexican state had it all planned out.  It was all planned so that the caravan would be a failure.

I believe the people of the government should be more focused on how to fix the situations in their countries.  That they are better off investing in generating jobs in our countries, in trying to eradicate violence, in trying to make better people so that countries are not so troubled. Where there are not people dying of hunger. That everything be a little bit more fair. That governments think about new measures to avoid so much immigration. Not using violence. Not closing borders. Not blocking the path of so many people. Not separating families. Not doing so many things that they do to migrants.

(Crying) I think they should be more on the humane side and look for the reasons why the people are looking for another place to live.  That is what I think governments should do, but they don’t. We have no other choice but to look for other ways, to give a better life to our families. To not live with the fear that at any moment they will kill you, kidnap you, that you will be raped and all that. I want everyone to realize how we are living and what is happening, but you only realize if you live in that situation. But not everyone is in our position. So all they do is point and judge why people come to these countries, but they don’t understand why they do it.

Spring, 2020

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Tapachula Migrant Solidarity

Autonomous Mutual Aid and Solidarity with migrants in resistance on the so-called Guatemala-Mexico Border.

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