A caravan of fifty mothers seeking their “desaparecidos”, sons and daughters who disappeared in the Central American migration route through Mexico that grew as harsh and dangerous as a dictatorship or a war. The caravan left on Nov. 10 and will travel throughout Mexico until December 3 to draw attention on the plight of migration in Central America. The initiative gained topical relevance after US President-elect Donald Trump announced he would expel 3 million illegal migrants with criminal records from the United States and reiterated his intention to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
The reactions of the Church and of the Mexican government. The Mexican Church immediately reacted to Trump’s declarations voicing her concerns.
In an editorial published on its weekly newspaper the archdiocese of Mexico City urged the Mexican government to adopt urgent measures to address the “mass deportation” aimed at “purifying the United States” from “unwanted people”, many of whom are Mexican citizens.
The Church equally criticized Obama’s administration, which during the past eight years in office “deported as many Mexicans as those that Trump demands to expel.” On its part a few days ago the Mexican Government announced the adoption of 11 provisions in support of Mexican citizens living in the United States, inviting them “to avoid any situation that could trigger conflict” and refrain from “actions that could lead to administrative or criminal sanctions.” The measures include the adoption of a 24-hour toll-free service to answer queries, an app for mobile phones with all the necessary contact information; increased numbers of “mobile consulates” (as many as 40 in 2015) tasked with administrative procedures, the issuing of passport and birth certificates. For the archdiocese these measures are “not enough”, an overarching effort is needed to “fight corruption”, overcome economic inequalities and poverty in certain areas, promoting “social and productive economy” along with increased job opportunities.
A route marked by suffering and snares. Snares and suffering scar the route of Latin-American migrants: women are raped, they are exposed to kidnapping and extortion, many of them are killed. Others disappear without trace during the journey. For these reasons for the past 12 years the Movimiento migrante mesoamericano, engaged in the promotion and defence of migrant people, has been holding a “Caravan of mothers.” This year’s initiative titled: “Buscamos vida en caminos de muerte” (We seek life on streets of death), will cross 11 Mexican States, with 30 stops. Some fifty mothers (as well as some fathers) will stop off in “Migrant homes”: reception centres that provide beds, food and other services to migrants following the Central American route, fleeing from violence and hunger, or seeking a better life, from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua. Some of them have walked 2 500 kilometers. The Movement also seeks to find some of the missing migrants: 260 have been found over the past 15 years. This year there will be six meetings between the parents and their children. Angela Adame, from Honduras, after four years finally embraced her daughter who had been imprisoned in the State of Zacatecas. But many of them are not as fortunate. They demand the fair treatment of the remains of the corpses of migrants to allow identification; support in their search of the missing in hospitals, healthcare centres, reintegration centres and other structures.
Father Rigoni: “it’s our Central-American Syria.” Father Flor Maria Rigoni, 71, who has been carrying out his mission for migrants in Europe, Africa, and in Mexico for the past 30 years, told SIR: “The Central-American Syria is on our doorstep. For years migrants have felt persecuted, prey to any hunter, object of suspicion. As a mother of five told me, migrants carry the coffin day after day, since any time and any place could be their cemetery.” He is a recognised authority in this field and has been invited as panel speaker at the United Nations. In 2006 he was awarded the National Prize for Human Rights by Mexico’s President. Since his arrival in Mexico he met over 700 thousand migrants and opened three “Migrants Homes.” Father Rigoni has been serving in Tapachula, also called the “southern Tijuana”, a town in poverty-stricken Chiapas, since 1998. Tapachula is a place of transit and departure of high numbers of migrants, 25% of whom are women who no longer have an “American dream” corresponding to the partisan European perspective.
They decide to stay and work in Mexico, in whose northern border areas -in the city Tijuana for example – they earn six times more than they would in Honduras.
Now migrants stop on the Mexican border. In fact, routes have changed across the years. “For a long time Central-American migrants, who represent the large majority of those passing through Chiapas and Mexico, have stopped considering the United States as their final destination – said Fr Rigoni -. When I first arrived in Tijuana 1. 600 million people crossed the US border. Last year figures dropped to 330 thousand. They prefer to stay in Mexico for the language, for reasons of ethnicity, and because in the northern areas salaries are higher.” Also Tapachula was affected by the change in routes: “We’re at a historical low: in the first two months of the year there were 70% less migrants. They prefer the sea route, which is still affordable and enables to avoid at least 20 checkpoints.” Moreover, once they enter Mexico law-enforcement authorities “stop looking for them or searching them – he pointed out – and they are less racially biased when stopping people on the streets.”
Trump’s wall? A “tall tale”. For the Scalabrinian missionary Trump’s threat to build a wall is a “tall tale. 1200 km of the wall have already been built, and it may be possible to ‘put on wings’, to dig an underground tunnel or resort to false papers. Also the United States is aware of their degree of corruption.” Finally Fr Rigoni made a remark on the outgoing presidency:
“Let us not forget that Obama, despite his promises, deported more Mexicans than any US President before him, amounting to a total of 2.8 million people.”