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Alejandro Solalinde Alejandro Solalinde operates a migrants' shelter in southern Oaxaca.

Oaxaca priest urges new approach to dealing with migrants

Alejandro Solalinde wants to see help for migrants rather than 'putting them in a pen'

A Catholic priest and social justice activist has proposed the creation of a government-run group to listen to and assist migrants who arrive in Mexico.

Alejandro Solalinde Guerra, a Oaxaca-based priest and founder of the Hermanos en el Camino (Brothers on the Road) migrant shelter in Ciudad Ixtepec, said that a “bridge group” managed by the federal government should be created to help migrants from Central America, South America and Caribbean countries.

He suggested that the group’s members could include migrant shelter directors, Catholic Church leaders, human rights defenders and academics.

In an interview with the newspaper El Universal, Solalinde spoke out against the federal government’s strategy of attempting to contain migrants on the southern border.

It is as if the government wants to “put them in a pen,” he said, asserting that the strategy violates migrants’ human rights.

Solalinde said that ex-military personnel with training and experience in the implementation of national security policy have been tasked with halting the migrants’ advance. However, they lack training in highly sensitive migration issues, he said.

The National Guard and National Immigration Institute (INM) agents have carried out operations in recent days to detain migrants in Chiapas. Two of the latter were suspended last week after they used brutal violence to detain one migrant.

Having fled poverty and violence in their homelands, migrants deserve to be listened to and helped, the 76-year-old priest said.

They shouldn’t be corralled on the southern border, he reiterated. “I believe that with the help of the bridge group they can be guided,” Solalinde said, adding that migrants could be funneled to different parts of the country depending on their nationalities and academic aptitudes.

He suggested they could subsequently have the opportunity to enter the United States legally if the Mexican government reaches new agreements with its U.S. counterpart.

Solalinde expressed support for President López Obrador’s call for the United States to do more to spur development and address the root causes of migration in large migrant source countries such as those in the Northern Triangle of Central America. However, he was pessimistic about any short term progress in Honduras, currently the main Central American source country.

Apparently indicating that he was interested in participating in the bridge group he proposed, the priest told El Universal:

“I’ve changed tactics: before I shouted, marched and protested against these migrant containment policies. Now I want to have a bearing from the inside, … ask them to modify their policies. That’s why I’ve asked … the INM to accept the help of people who know about migration issues, people who have worked with migrants for years. I also ask that of Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard, in order to restructure our migration policy.”

With reports from El Universal 

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