Saturday, June 22, 2024

Immigration agents, Guard attempt to detain priest helping migrants

A Catholic priest in Chiapas says National Guard troops and National Immigration Institute (INM) agents threatened to arrest him when he provided help to women and children in the migrant caravan which left Tapachula on October 23. 

Heyman Vázquez Medina, the parish priest in Huixtla, was transporting migrants to Pijijiapan, the caravan’s destination on Tuesday, 27 kilometers from Hermenegildo Galeana where it spent Monday night. The women and children were stranded on the highway and suffering from dehydration and heat stroke as well as coughs, diarrhea and fever.

Vázquez said his pickup truck was surrounded by officials on the highway. “I was carrying water and medicines for the migrants, and on the way I distributed them. There were a lot of sick children and I told them to climb onto my pickup truck, but since there were a lot of them I made four trips. Someone from the National Guard saw me on the last trip, three kilometers from the entrance to Pijijiapan. They lined up their cars on the highway and the agents of that organization and the INM surrounded me,” he said.

Officials started to take migrants from the back of the truck to put them on to a bus to be returned to Tapachula, the newspaper La Jornada reported. 

Vázquez said he called caravan leader Irineo Mújica for help. “They wanted me to get all the people out of my truck … I told them that I was taking them to the doctor because they needed attention … I called Irineo Mújica, who was not very far and arrived with a group of migrants. There was an altercation and [the authorities] had to give in,” he said.

“I am not afraid of you and you will not intimidate me either. I’m taking the children because they need medical attention. You don’t offer it to them,” the priest said to the authorities, the newspaper El Universal reported. 

He added that an INM official told National Guardsmen to take him to the local prosecutor’s office but instead they took his license plate number and said he would be reported. 

The National Guard is under investigation for another incident in Chiapas on Sunday, when a Cuban migrant was killed after troops opened fire on a pick up truck transporting migrants near Pijijiapan. Four other people were wounded in the incident, which is now being investigated by the National Human Rights Commission.

With reports from La Jornada and El Universal 

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