“We can’t take anymore, we are migrants, not animals.”

Migrants face a collapsed immigration system. Photo: Ángeles Mariscal.

By Ángeles Mariscal

With their feet torn up, under the sun and rain, hundreds of migrants from Haiti, Venezuela, Cuba, Central America and other nationalities continued the caravan that left last Saturday from the city of Tapachula, a place where some have stayed for more than a year, without work and awaiting the Mexican government’s response to their requests for asylum. The Mexican immigration system, they say, has collapsed. 

 Tapachula became a prison for them, because immigration authorities impose a ban on leaving the city, even though their appointments to attend to their requests are not until January.

“I can’t take care of my family there in Tapachula, the only work that I can find there is unloading truckloads of goods in the market, from 2 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon, for 100 pesos a day. This only gives me enough to buy some tortillas and vegetables for my children,” explained Alexandro Rodríguez Valera, from the Dominican Republic, who has been in the city for seven months.

This situation is compounded by racism, discrimination and abuse by some some settlers, who see in others competition for jobs, because in Chiapas, 7 out of 10 people live in poverty.  

In their second day of walking, they survived a violent attempt at detention, by immigration agents, military and elements of the National Guard. Some were detained and taken to the immigration station.

Exhaustion is already felt among those who continue. Every few minutes they make stops, trying to shield themselves from the sun or the rain, under the trees of the coastal highway that runs from the city of Tapachula to the center of the country. 

Only two municipal ambulances came close to look them over and give fluids to those who showed signs of dehydration, to bandage the legs of those whose pain will prevent them from continuing. 

Migrants look for ways to survive. Photo: Ángeles Mariscal

“There is still so far, so far left to go.”

On their second day, they have only advanced 74 kilometers. A solidary trailer tried to give them a ride, hundreds got on in the first moment, but then distrust made them get off. They decided to continue walking together, as a measure of protection. 

Along the migratory route, adding to the threat of deportation are threats of organized crime, which also has made a business of kidnapping migrants.

Some organizations brought water and food, but as of now there is no more humanitarian aid. “We can’t take anymore, there are children, men whose feet are so torn up that they can’t walk,” says Filomena Martín, one of the few Haitian women who speaks Spanish. 

“There are children that have not had any bread since yesterday, only drink and water. You can’t do that, those people (Mexican authorities) have hearts of stone; they are mothers and fathers too. They have to have compassion, they have to have mercy. If we are making the decision to go on foot in a caravan, it is because the situation is truly very difficult, very hard for us,” the woman explained.

“In Tapachula,” she said, “there’s no room for more migrants and thousands more are still coming. And now there are Hondurans, Guatemalans, Venezuelans. There are Haitians, Cubans, Africans, from everywhere. We can’t take anymore. We have asked  the President of Mexico and the organizations to have mercy on us, to look at the situation. Today is the second day and there is so far, so far to go.”

Brien –young, strong, athletic– cannot hold back his tears as he speaks with the staff of the National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH) that came to observe the caravan. He immigrated from Haiti, crossed the jungle of the Darien Gap in Colombia, and now feels vulnerable in the face of his situation in Mexico.

“Please do something, I ask you from the bottom of my heart, please, we truly can’t take anymore. Please, there are pregnant women and children in the streets. The only thing we want is to be at peace, to get somewhere where we can work and live as immigrants, and live free. Peace! Peace! We don’t want to go to the United States, we want to get to a place in Mexico where there is work, where there is a life for us. We are migrants, not animals.”

They hope to find work in other cities in Mexico. Photo: Ángeles Mariscal.

A Collapsed Immigration System

Enrique Vidal, from the Fray Matías de Córdova, explained that the Mexican immigration system on the southern border has collapsed, without a budget or staffing to attend to the requests of the thousands of people entering the country.

“There is a historical arrival of immigrants to Mexico, a product of the systemic crisis that their countries of origin are experiencing, and the Mexican government has not reinforced the immigration system with either budget or personnel in order to respond to the migrants’ requests.”

In the case of those who decided to embark on the caravan to leave the city of Tapachula, he explained that they had waited several months for a response to their applications, but the majority could not get an appointment until January.

This forces them to stay in Tapachula, “which is experiencing a serious humanitarian crisis due to overcrowding, lack of basic services, and the gradual but widespread deterioration of the physical and emotional well-being of migrants living in precarious health conditions.”

Vidal revealed that the Mexican immigration system must be modified, and provide options for migrants who so desire to remain in the country safely, to have options for employment, and to integrate into society without racism and discrimination. And so those who want to reach the border of the United States can do so, and begin their applications for that country.

This article was published in Chiapas Paralelo on August 30th, 2021. https://www.chiapasparalelo.com/noticias/2021/08/no-podemos-mas-somos-migrantes-no-somos-animales/ This English interpretation has been re-published by Schools for Chiapas.