A group of just five Central American migrants crossed the Mexico-Guatemala border last Sunday to begin a protest march that will follow the well-trodden northward route to the United States border.
But by Monday, the Viacrucis del Migrante, or the Migrants’ Way of the Cross, had swelled to close to 100 people when it gathered at the headquarters of the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (Comar), in the border town of Tapachula, Chiapas.
There, the migrants accused the agency, which operates under the Interior Secretariat, of denying refugee status to most applicants and demanded a more streamlined request process.
“They make [migrants] stay here for four or five months, suffering from hunger, having to line up under this sun, and in the end they almost always tell them their refugee application has been rejected,” said Cristóbal Sánchez, a spokesman for the protest march and leader of the non-governmental organization Movimiento Cultura Migrante, or Migrant Culture Movement.
Sánchez said Mexico’s immigration policy responds to the interest of the U.S., and charged that Comar’s approval selection criteria is racist, elitist and discriminatory.
“We’re here to say to Comar that we disagree with its immigration policy, and that as Mexicans we’re ashamed of these institutions,” he declared, extending an apology on behalf of Mexicans to the migrants for the hardships they have to deal with.
On Tuesday, the march went through the customs and immigration checkpoint at Cerro Gordo, in the municipality of Huixtla.
On a normal day this is where a migrant’s journey northward journey ends but on this occasion none of the protesters was apprehended.
“To go through this immigration checkpoint without an arrest is an act of protest for us,” Sánchez told the newspaper Reforma.
“Most of the migrants coming with us are seeking refuge in Mexico, fleeing from the violence and terror of gangs [in their home countries],” he said.
Sánchez said that when the march reaches the country’s capital it will demand that the federal government put a stop to its Programa Frontera Sur, or southern border plan, adopted on July 2014 under pressure from the U.S. government.
The protesters will also demand that the government recognize the migratory crisis caused by violence in countries like Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
Sánchez called on the Mexican government to respect the migrants’ right to choose where to live, and to allow them freedom of transit in Mexico.
The Migrants’ Way of the Cross is expected to arrive in the Isthmus region of the state of Oaxaca today, where it will spend three days before continuing to Medias Aguas, Veracruz.
The organizers expect the protest march to conclude in 10 days’ time in San Diego, California.