3K Migrants Start Procession in Mexico

Organizers say march to Mexico City is in response to fatal detention center fire
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 23, 2023 2:30 PM CDT
3K Migrants Start March to Mexico City
A migrant holds a cross with text that reads in Spanish "State crime. Dead." as he and others start walking north from Tapachula, Chiapas state, Mexico, on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Edgar Hernandez Clemente)

Around 3,000 migrants set out Sunday on what they call a mass protest procession through southern Mexico to demand the end of detention centers like the one that caught fire last month, killing 40 migrants. The migrants set out early Sunday from the city of Tapachula, near the Guatemalan border, the AP reports. They say their aim is to reach Mexico City to demand changes in the way migrants are treated. "It could well have been any of us," Salvadoran migrant Miriam Argueta said of those killed in the fire. "In fact, a lot of our countrymen died. The only thing we are asking for is justice, and to be treated like anyone else."

In the past, however, many participants in such processions have continued on to the US border, which is almost always their goal. The migrants are mainly from Central America, Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia. Mexican authorities have used paperwork restrictions and highway checkpoints to bottle up tens of thousands of frustrated migrants in Tapachula, making it hard for them to reach the US border. Argueta said that when migrants look for work in Tapachula, "they give us jobs, perhaps not humiliating, but the one the Mexicans don't want to do, hard work that pays very little."

Organizer Irineo Mújica said the migrants are demanding the dissolving of the country's immigration agency, whose officials have been blamed—and some of t hem charged with homicide—in the March 27 fire. Mújica called the immigration detention centers "jails." The roots of the migrant caravan phenomenon began years ago when activists organized processions, often with a religious theme, during Holy Week to dramatize the hardships and needs of migrants. In 2018 a minority of those involved wound up traveling all the way to the US border.

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Mexican prosecutors have said they will press charges against the immigration agency’s top national official, Francisco Garduño, saying that he was remiss in not preventing the disaster in Ciudad Juarez despite earlier indications of problems at his agency's detention centers. Prosecutors said government audits had found “a pattern of irresponsibility and repeated omissions” in the immigration institute. Six officials of the National Immigration Institute, a guard at the center and the Venezuelan migrant accused of starting the blaze are already in custody facing homicide charges.

(More Mexico stories.)

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