From the November-December 2021 issue of News & Letters
by Eugene Walker
Mexico—Once again a migrant caravan—primarily Central Americans and Haitians—is proceeding from southern Mexico towards Mexico City, with hopes of reaching the U.S. Their chance of success rests on their size (several thousand strong) and determination to walk hundreds of miles in the face of Mexican government hostility, including National Guard soldiers who have attacked caravans near Mexico’s southern border. While Mexico has historically been a safe haven for exiles, that has recently changed dramatically.
COLLUSION TO STOP IMMIGRANTS
Today there is collusion between Mexico and the U.S. to severely limit the rights of immigrants to seek asylum either in Mexico or the U.S. Mexico has acquiesced to the U.S.’s “stay in Mexico” policy whereby asylum seekers arriving at the U.S. border are forced to stay in Mexico for months while awaiting hearings in the U.S.
The conditions in Tijuana and other border areas are dangerous, with inhospitable living conditions and little possibility of work. Everything is designed to discourage the immigrants from continuing their stay.
The U.S. has been deporting immigrants by flying them to southern Mexico, where the Mexican National Guard forcibly expels them across the Guatemalan border without any arrangements for safety or survival. The National Guard, originally formed to fight narco-traffickers in Mexico, has primarily been put on the southern border in Chiapas to prevent refugees from Central and South America from crossing into Mexico on the way towards the U.S. The Guard is doing the bidding of the U.S. in its war against asylum seekers.
INJUSTICE FOR HAITIANS
Thousands of Haitians left Haiti after the 2010 massive earthquake to find a place to live and work in Brazil and Chile. Now economic hard times plus the pandemic have meant a loss of jobs and discrimination, forcing them to migrate thousands of miles, including across the difficult jungle of the Darién Gap, to reach Mexico and the U.S. Mexico is making it extremely difficult for Haitians to obtain visas to remain in Mexico.
The head of the Mexican Refugee Aid Commission reported recently that 6,000 Haitians made up 85% of migrants seeking asylum in the first two weeks of October. Amnesty International called on Mexico to stop deportations of Haitian migrants at the southern border, noting that Mexico accepted less than half of asylum applications by Haitians in 2020 and 2021, compared to more than 95% for Venezuelans and around 85% for Hondurans.
Are Mexico and the U.S. going to continue the racist practices that Haitians have faced ever since their great slave rebellion at the end of the 18th Century?
DROUGHT, HURRICANES, REPRESSION
There is a full-blown emergency in Latin America stemming from the dual crises of climate chaos and the COVID-19 pandemic. A moving report in The Guardian documents the devastation that thousands of Guatemalans are living through following years of drought and destructive hurricanes Eta and Iota, which decimated Indigenous communities.
No wonder Guatemalans, together with Hondurans, El Salvadorans and other Central Americans, seek survival by leaving their home countries. Human rights organizations denounced the National Migration Institute and the National Guard for “violently” repressing the migrant caravans that travel through Mexico to the U.S. and for arbitrarily separating, detaining and deporting families, mainly Central Americans.
The organizations pointed out that violence against migrants intensified in the last three years with the massive departure of people from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Haiti to the U.S. They specified that there are migrants who have been in Tapachula, Chiapas, for more than a year “without job opportunities, or access to healthcare or education.”