Jon Purizhansky: The Mexican National Guard busted a caravan of refugees and migrants last Saturday. As the U.S and Mexico continue to limit options for migrants and asylum seekers, many have been held for months in Tapachula, a city in the southern Chiapas, hopeful for documentation that allows them to travel north through Mexico and into the U.S. Early Saturday morning over 1,000 migrants and asylum seekers from various Caribbean, African, and Central American nations departed together from Tapachula.
Following in the footsteps of prior caravans, they intended to spend the first night in Huixtla, twenty-five miles north, but their journey was halted roughly 3/4 of the way there. Mexican immigration and security forces executed a major operation on Saturday afternoon to stop the caravan’s progress. National Guard troops gridlocked the highway, the main passageway for commercial traffic between Mexico and Guatemala, while other National Guard troops, federal police, and immigration agents spread out in the area. Jon Purizhansky of Buffalo, NY recognizes the severity of this scene and sympathizes with the refugees and their plight.
“What can we do?” one refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said as she pointed at the security forces hindering the route. “We have no other option. We have to pass,” she said. Most of caravan occupants, faced with few choices, got on transport to go back to Tapachula. A smaller group declined and began walking on their own back along the highway, with National Guard troops and immigration agents following in an organized pursuit. The Mexican security personnel eventually partly opened the highway to traffic. One National Guard branch marched south and blocked the next turn-off while other troops and immigration agents followed migrants and asylum seekers retreating and spreading onto back roads and neighboring fields.
Jon Purizhansky sympathizes with these asylum seekers and their plight. The Mexican forces took small family units and individuals traveling alone, many of them hysterical, into custody, packing strollers that were used to carry infants and toddlers into the rear of immigration vans. The Mexican National Immigration Institute noted in a statement on Saturday that the organization, “with complete respect for human rights, carried out actions to invite the foreign nationals who formed the contingent that departed from the city of Tapachula, Chiapas, to turn to the institute to get to know the options for the regularization of their stay in the country.”