Mi­grants re­ject Mex­ico’s of­fer of work, shel­ter

The Sun News (Sunday) - - News - BY CHRISTO­PHER SHER­MAN As­so­ci­ated Press

More than a hun­dred Mex­i­can fed­eral of­fi­cers car­ry­ing plas­tic shields aban­doned a block­ade they had formed on a bridge Satur­day, al­low­ing a car­a­van of thou­sands of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants to ad­vance to­ward the United States.

The of­fi­cers ended the stand­off af­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Mex­ico’s Na­tional Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion told po­lice that a ru­ral stretch of high­way with­out shade, toi­lets or wa­ter was no place for mi­grants to en­ter­tain of­fers of asy­lum in Mex­ico. Po­lice boarded buses and headed fur­ther down the high­way, while mi­grants cheered and vowed to trek all the way to the U.S. border.

Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Peña Ni­eto be­gan a pro­gram Fri­day dubbed “You are home,” which prom­ises shel­ter, med­i­cal at­ten­tion, school­ing and jobs to Cen­tral Amer­i­cans who agree to stay in the south­ern Mex­ico states of Chi­a­pas or Oax­aca.

Po­lice com­mis­sioner Ben­jamin Gra­jeda said that au­thor­i­ties only blocked the high­way Satur­day to tell peo­ple about the gov­ern­ment’s of­fer. “Here in this truck right now you can get help,” he said.

Thou­sands of mi­grants in the city of Ar­riaga re­jected the plan Fri­day night, but said they could be will­ing to dis­cuss it again once they reachMex­ico City. Some fear they will be de­ported if they take ad­van­tage of the pro­gram.

The car­a­van is now try­ing to strike out for Tapanate­pec, about 29 miles up the road.

Or­be­lina Orellana, a mi­grant from San Pe­dro Sula, Hon­duras, said she and her hus­band left three chil­dren be­hind and had de­cided to con­tinue north one way or an­other.

“Our des­tiny is to get to the border,” she said.

She was sus­pi­cious of the gov­ern­ment’s pro­posal and said that some Hon­durans who had ap­plied for le­gal sta­tus had al­ready been sent back. Her claims could not be ver­i­fied, but mi­grants’ rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the talks asked the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment to pro­vide a list of those who had been forced to re­turn.

Mex­ico’s In­te­rior Min­istry said that tem­po­rary iden­tity num­bers have been is­sued to 111 mi­grants un­der the “You are home” pro­gram. The IDs, called CURPs, au­tho­rize the mi­grants to stay and work in Mex­ico, and the min­istry said preg­nant women, chil­dren and the el­derly were among the mi­grants who had joined the pro­gram and are now be­ing at­tended to at shel­ters.

The gov­ern­ment ap­pears to want to shrink the car­a­van by keep­ing smaller groups of mi­grants from join­ing, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously hop­ing that the gru­el­ing jour­ney will make its of­fer of refuge more at­trac­tive.

Po­lice have been eject­ing mi­grant pas­sen­gers off buses in re­cent days and crack­ing down on smaller groups try­ing to catch up with the main car­a­van. An of­fi­cial with the na­tional im­mi­gra­tion author­ity said Fri­day that 300 Hon­durans and Gu­atemalans who crossed the Mex­ico border il­le­gally had been de­tained.

Mi­grants, who en­ter Mex­ico il­le­gally every day, usu­ally ride in smug­glers’ trucks or buses, or walk at night to avoid de­tec­tion. The fact that the group of about 300 strag­glers was walk­ing in broad day­light sug­gests they were adopt­ing the tac­tics of the main car­a­van, which is large enough to be out in the open with­out fear of mass de­ten­tion.


Mem­bers of a U.S.-bound mi­grant car­a­van cross a bridge be­tween the Mex­i­can states of Chi­a­pas and Oax­aca af­ter fed­eral po­lice briefly blocked them Satur­day.

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