Hundreds arrive in Mexican city after closure of border immigration office

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, Mar 22 (EFE).- Hundreds of foreigners have arrived in this southeastern city following the sudden closure of an immigration office in the Mexican border town of Tapachula, where confrontations have erupted between authorities and migrants frustrated by slow processing times.

“It’s very sad because they catch us, detain us,” Jacky Chacon told Efe of her experiences since arriving in the Mexican state of Chiapas. “I’m not seeking asylum anymore because it’s a very time-consuming (ordeal). My goal was to take my grandson to be with his mother in the United States, who’s been living there for three years.”

The 55-year-old Honduran woman and her grandson crossed the border from Guatemala to Tapachula to request a humanitarian visa that would allow them to freely travel through the country.

But after her process in that border town stalled, they decided last week to make the 400-kilometer (250-mile) trip to San Cristobal de las Casas, a picturesque colonial city that is considered Chiapas’ cultural capital.

Having arrived there, she was mulling Tuesday whether to return to Honduras or continue trying to obtain some type of permit for her and her grandson.

On Friday, the National Institute of Migration (INM) announced the indefinite suspension of service at the migrant processing center in Tapachula after hundreds of undocumented foreigners tried to force their way into the building.

That decision followed several confrontations between authorities and groups of migrants, including an incident in which undocumented foreigners burst into the INM’s headquarters in Tapachula, a city on the border with Guatemala where thousands of migrants have been stranded for weeks and even months.

Coinciding with the migrants’ arrival in San Cristobal de las Casas and the recent rise in the numbers of people trying to make their way northward to the United States, several institutions on Tuesday inaugurated a shelter in that city capable of housing up to 100 asylum-seekers, refugees or undocumented foreigners.

The project was financed by SEPAMI, an organization belonging to the Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas that offers pastoral service to migrants, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The new shelter is the latest in a network of well-equipped shelters in Mexico, which are on the front line of that country’s humanitarian response to the spike in migrant flows, Giovanni Lepri, UNHCR’s representative in Mexico, said at the inauguration ceremony.

During the event, Rodrigo Aguilar Martinez, a priest with the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas, expressed thanks to all those who helped make the project a reality.

“Despite the pandemic restrictions and the political restrictions, there have always been migrants,” he said.

Martha Lizeth Alvarez Cruz, a 32-year-old native of Honduras who is traveling with her two-year-old son, was one of the women being attended to Tuesday at the shelter.

Thanks to SEPAMI’s support, she was able to obtain legal advice and arrange for an interview in June with immigration authorities.

“Waiting for results is tedious and stressful. But I’m hopeful I can make my way further north so I can get in touch with my husband,” the Honduran woman said.

The region is experiencing a record flow of migrants trying to make their way to the US, whose Customs and Border Protection agency intercepted a record 1.7 million undocumented migrants seeking to enter the country illegally in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, 2021.

Mexico deported more than 114,000 undocumented migrants in 2021, according to the Government Secretariat’s Migration Policy Unit, while the Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid received a record 131,448 asylum applications.

Between Jan. 1 and March 8, the INM apprehended 73,034 undocumented foreign nationals on Mexican soil. EFE


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