A Cuban migrant “crucified” himself yesterday in Chiapas to protest arbitrary deportations and demand safe passage for migrants.
For three hours, Denis Hernández Barona chained himself to a wooden cross outside an office of the National Immigration Institute (INM) near the Mexico-Guatemala border in Tapachula to draw attention to what he explained was a dire situation for migrants.
Hernández also began a hunger strike last week in protest against a recent increase in deportations, saying he would rather die than return to Cuba.
He called on the federal government not to deport Cuban migrants in light of the political oppression they face in their home country. He demanded that authorities instead grant refugees a 20-day exit pass to leave Mexico and seek asylum in the United States.
He also denounced the tactics used by immigration authorities to lure migrants.
“Many of those who were deported in recent days were victims of a trap, because when they entered the immigration station to receive their exit passes, they were herded on to buses in the middle of the night to be loaded on to planes [back to Cuba].”
In just over a week, the INM has deported 123 Cuban and 71 Haitian migrants. Activists say that migrants from both Caribbean countries face political persecution and economic hardship back home.
Currently, hundreds of migrants from Central America, Cuba, Haiti and various African countries remain camped outside the immigration office in Tapachula. On April 1, the INM implemented an emergency measure to issue a limited number of humanitarian visas, with priority given to women, children and seniors over 65.
Other migrants also protested yesterday by burning effigies of Donald Trump, President López Obrador and Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero.
The president of an immigrants’ rights advocacy organization charged last week that increased deportations were carried out in response to pressure from the United States. Wilner Metelus said the situation was particularly unjust for Haitians because of their country’s economic and political situation.
“I believe these deportations are happening because of political pressure on Mexico from [United States] President Donald Trump, but to me these decisions seem wrong and discriminatory.”
Metelus alleged numerous cases in which Haitian migrants were lied to by immigration officials, who promised them humanitarian visas that never materialized.
According to federal statistics, 13,643 undocumented migrants were deported from Mexico in the first two months of this year, while more than 30,000 were detained in the first three months, a figure that has risen significantly since January, when 7,500 illegal migrants were arrested.
The number went up to 9,900 in February and 12,746 in March.