A senior lawmaker with the ruling Morena party has described a migrants’ station in Tapachula, Chiapas, as “a prison in disguise.”
Porfirio Muñoz Ledo made the remark after visiting the federally run Siglo XXI migrants’ station on Monday as part of a delegation of federal deputies.
The lawmaker, an outspoken critic of the government’s increased enforcement against mainly Central American migrants who enter Mexico via the southern border, also asserted that the facility – used to house (and detain) migrants as they await either deportation or permission to remain in or travel through Mexico – was spruced up in preparation for the deputies’ visit.
“When we went in, it smelled of paint; they painted it a few hours before. … It’s a farce,” he said.
Drawn from several parties, the nine deputies who visited the migrants’ station agreed that an urgent law change is needed to ensure that neither child migrants nor their parents are held in migrants’ centers after being detained by authorities.
National Action Party (PAN) Deputy Laura Angélica Rojas Hernández said that migrant families should be housed at facilities operated by the family services agency, known as the DIF. More funding should be allocated to the agency to allow it to improve its infrastructure, she said.
Rojas said that the aim of the federal delegation, whose members met with representatives of the UN Refugee Agency, the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (Comar) and non-governmental migrant advocacy organizations, was to learn more about the migration phenomenon firsthand.
She said that Comar statistics showed that asylum requests in Mexico had increased from just 1,200 in 2013 to 70,000 last year.
“That places very significant pressure on institutions,” the lawmaker said.
Rojas added that National Immigration Institute (INM) data shows that the number of undocumented migrants who crossed into Mexico in Chiapas last year increased to 170,000 from just under 94,000 in 2017 and just over 130,000 in 2018.
The number of migrants who have entered Chiapas from Guatemala so far this year is 50% higher than in the same period of 2019, she said.
The PAN deputy said that authorities need to reduce the time it takes to process applications for legal admission, pointing out that some migrants have to wait between six and eight months.
Rojas also said that the INM and Comar need to work together more closely and that infrastructure at migrants’ stations needs to be improved. They were built to house men but now also accommodate children and teenagers, some of whom are unaccompanied, she said.
Citizens’ Movement Deputy Jacob David Cheja said that responding to the migration phenomenon on the southern border is a priority because it’s a humanitarian, rather than a partisan, issue.
Verónica Juárez Piña of the Democratic Revolution Party said that the General Migration Law must be brought into line with the General Children’s Law because minors’ interests must be respected and that includes not detaining them in migrants’ centers.
The federal government agreed to ramp up enforcement against migrants in the middle of last year to avert a threat from United States President Donald Trump to impose blanket tariffs on Mexican goods.
Source: El Universal (sp)