Haitians opt for perilous routes in US-bound trek from southeast Mexico

By Mitzi Mayauel Fuentes Gomez

La Concordia, Mexico, Sep 21 (EFE).- The interception of several migrant caravans has led United States-bound Haitians to seek alternative, less-traveled routes from the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas to the US-Mexico border, where the arrival of thousands of migrants in recent days has triggered a new crisis.

Hundreds of migrants stranded in Tapachula, a town near the Mexican-Guatemalan border, have been crossing the Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountain range after growing frustrated with the Mexican government’s slow response to their requests for asylum.

After weeks and even months in southern Mexico, they have begun moving north on foot or in pick-up trucks through the municipalities of Motozintla, Chicomuselo, La Concordia, Villaflores, Ocozocoautla de Espinosa and Tuxtla Chico.

They have opted for these more remote routes to avoid ongoing operations to halt their advance, with four migrant caravans having been recently broken up in actions in which authorities have faced criticism for excessive use of force.

Most of these individuals are carrying documents showing proof of immigration cases under way before the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (Comar) or the National Institute of Migration (INM).

Others say Mexican authorities have acknowledged that their asylum claims are valid but they still have been unable to obtain a document showing legal proof of their refugee status.

Mexico is coping with a major surge in migration, with 147,000 undocumented migrants having been detected in the country between January and August – or triple the number in 2020 – and a record 212,000 undocumented migrants detained in July alone by the US Customs and Border Protection agency.

Some groups of migrants travel northward on boats under constant fear of being detained by immigration authorities or falling into the hands of organized crime gangs.

Some say they have been the victims of robbery or extortion during their journey.

One Haitian migrant named Mark had been stranded in Tapachula for 20 days along with thousands of other people, but he eventually decided his meager savings would run out if he waited any longer to regularize his situation.

“We didn’t ask for a permit … A lot of Haitians are spending a lot of money for permits,” the man said.

Isma Stanley, a young Haitian man who is the father of a young boy, said his patience had run out in Tapachula.

“I want to leave Chiapas to get up to Mexico City. There’s work in the city and I’d been stuck in Tapachula for two months with nothing to do,” he told Efe outside a bus station in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas’ capital.

His situation is similar to that of Jackson Dominique, a 27-year-old who is traveling in a group of six people, including three children.

They have been traveling in the region for days, both on foot and by vehicle, and are on the verge of crossing into the neighboring Gulf coast state of Veracruz after evading Mexican security forces.

“I climbed a hill carrying a young girl to avoid migration officials,” Jackson said while waiting for a bus.

An estimated 13,000 mostly Haitian migrants have arrived at the US-Mexico border in recent days and are being held by US immigration authorities in makeshift camps underneath the international bridge that connects Del Rio, Texas, with Ciudad Acuña, a town in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila.

In a press conference from Del Rio, US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas reiterated on Monday that his country’s borders “are not open” and that migrants “should not make the dangerous journey.”

Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, meanwhile, said Tuesday that he spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the “need for a regional response” to the immigration challenges.

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