Mexico is beefing up its role as an enforcer against illegal migration, deporting more Central American migrants than U.S. authorities are apprehending. But amid the crackdown, there’s growing alarm that the migrants, mostly coming from Central America, are increasingly vulnerable to violent attacks.
Undocumented Central American migrants fleeing violence and poverty in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are continuing to stream north into Mexico and the United States, though there have been significantly fewer migrants found at the southern U.S. border. But as Mexican enforcement authorities ramp up deportations under the so-called Southern Border Plan, migrants have taken more dangerous routes north to the U.S., and human rights advocates say Mexico isn’t doing enough to protect potential refugees and asylum seekers in peril.
Reports of migrants facing attacks or kidnappings have worried groups like Amnesty International, which issued a call last week for the Mexican government to investigate the violence. According to the group, more than 220 Central American migrants headed for the U.S. border were attacked by armed groups in the first two weeks of June alone. It cited two separate incidents in which large groups of migrants were ambushed by armed men wielding firearms.
“Mexico has become a death trap for migrants, with vicious criminal gangs at every corner waiting for their opportunity to attack them for a few dollars, while authorities at the state and federal level are more eager to deport people than to save their lives,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, director of the Americas for Amnesty International, in a statement last week.
Additionally, the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, a nonprofit organization in Mexico, documented 250 cases of migrant disappearances in Mexico over the past two months. Ruben Figueroa, an activist with the organization, told Agence France-Presse the group also had heard several accounts of immigration authorities using stun guns on migrants to detain them -- a claim that the country's National Migration Institute denies.
Unaccompanied migrant children make up a significant bulk of the migrant flow. Mexican authorities said Monday they aleady had rescued 6,733 unaccompanied migrant children from traffickers in 2015 alone. Those children have been placed into government programs that allow them access to healthcare and psychological treatment while their immigration status is determined, authorities said.
But Mexican officials are also ramping up the rate of child detentions. Between January and May, immigration authorities in Mexico detained 11,893 children, mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador -- a 49 percent increase from the same period a year before. Roughly half of those minors had been traveling without a parent, the National Migration Institute said. Earlier this month, the United Nations had expressed concern about Mexico’s detention of child migrants, saying the centers exposed them to abuse and violence.