It has gone largely underreported as the eyes of the world are on so much more––flooding, Afghanistan and COVID-19. But last week, some 2-300 Haitian migrants, trekking as part of a caravan through the southern state of Chiapas, Mexico, were chased and harshly tackled and arrested by Mexican federal agents and national guardsmen with riot shields.
Some of the scenes showed women and children being pulled and tugged at as they cried during a raid in Escuintla, Chiapas state, Mexico. Women, children and men, were chased, cornered, pulled and shoved, grabbed and arrested. Some of the men were tackled to the ground.
The scenes are hard to watch and have drawn indignation from many in Mexico. In one of the toughest images to watch, the news website Animal Politico showed a man crying as he held a woman who appeared unconscious on the ground outside an immigration vehicle. It wasn’t clear what caused her to faint.
The Haitians were part of three caravans of migrants setting out from Tapachula, in an attempt to reach central and northern Mexico and the U.S. border. The majority are asylum seekers who have grown tired of waiting in the southern city for Mexico’s overwhelmed asylum system to process their cases. Shelter space is limited, and many have been forced to live in unsanitary conditions. They want to be able to work legally in Mexico and move freely.
Instead, Mexican immigration and security forces impeded the caravans along a coastal highway in Chiapas state, corralling and detaining many of the caravan travelers by force.
The group faced Mexico’s harsh migration controls on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, just hours after President Andrés Manuel López Obrador vowed to prevent their caravan from trekking further north.
This came after immigration agents were filmed previously kicking a migrant who was already on the ground. They were suspended last week as López Obrador insisted that the government has not violated migrants’ human rights.
Father César Cañaveral, diocesan director of migrant ministries in Tapachula, says the caravans formed out of desperation as people are “living in inhumane conditions” in Tapachula.
“The three (caravans) have been broken up by the government, but with inhuman treatment,” said Father Cañaveral. “It’s being done like a hunt. They’re not distinguishing which people are being hit. They’re hitting everyone the same: children, women. There’s a lot of human suffering there.”
It is understandable that Mexican authorities are overwhelmed. Mexico’s refugee agency, which handles the applications, is already behind, and the pandemic slowed things even more. So far this year, more than 77,000 people have applied for protected status in Mexico, 55,000 of those in Tapachula. Haitians account for about 19,000 of those applicants.
And the Trump-era policy called the Migrant Protection Protocols, but better known as the “Remain in Mexico,” upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and being continued by the Biden administration, has led to more than 70,000 asylum seekers waiting, mostly in dangerous Mexican border cities.
One cannot help but notice how quickly the Mexican government moved to publicly welcome hundreds of Afghan refugees with open arms, within hours of the evacuation request. But Haitians are waiting for months on end.
Which begs the question again––do Black Lives Really Matter? It certainly does not look that way, especially when they are poor, Black and Haitian!
The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow