Central American Migrants feel brunt of increasing border security in Mexico.
ANDALUSIA KNOLL, PRODUCER: Last week, the U.S. Senate passed an immigration reform bill that will provide a lengthy pathway to citizenship for a significant percent of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. The amendment introduced by Republican senators Bob Corker and Senator John Hoeven will double the number of border patrols from 20,000 to 40,000 agents over the next decade and allow the construction of 700 miles of new walls and fences on the border.
BOB CORKER, U.S. SENATOR (R-TN): But I do think the American people have asked us, if we pass an immigration bill off the Senate floor, to do everything that we can to ensure that we have secured the border. That's what people in Tennessee have asked for. That's what people in North Dakota have asked for. That's what people in Arizona have asked for.
KNOLL: The amendment has evoked outrage from immigrant rights groups on both sides of the border who say that this militarization will violate people's human rights.
Since the U.S. increased border security in 1994, over 6,000 people have been found dead along the border. It is estimated that over 500,000 migrants cross the border illegally every year.
Roxanna Rodriguez is a researcher at the Autonomous University of Mexico City and believes that reform will not impact people's motivation to cross into the United States.
ROXANNA RODRIGUEZ, RESEARCHER, AUTONOMOUS UNIVERSITY OF MEXICO CITY (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Migrants will continue to cross the border as many times as it is necessary. The migrants have a necessity to leave their home countries, an economic need or a personal motivation or in search of a dreams. What we cannot allow is for human mobility be punished. Human mobility is a right independent of one's reasons.
KNOLL: Rodriguez helped coordinate a food and clothing drive for the San Jose Huehuetoca migrant refuge house located 50 miles outside of Mexico City, situated along one of the common migrant routes.
Migrant activists in Mexico have stated that security has not just increased on the northern border, but also the southern border with Guatemala. The U.S. has been pressuring the Mexican government to beef up security and target Central American migrants on their journey north.
This small refuge house was raided by Mexican migration forces and municipal police on June 17. Andrea Gonzales is a coordinator with the migrant house and says the governments actions were completely illegal.
ANDREAR GONZALES, MIGRANT HOUSE COORDINATOR (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): There was a raid by the National Institute of Migration here in the dining hall. They raided the train tracks and also entered the dining hall. They detained people who were here eating breakfast.
The law of migration says you can't do this within migrant refuge houses. Also, municipal police are not allowed tot assist in these raids, and it was them who were assisting the Institute of Migration. They beat people, they pulled them out, and they grabbed them on the tracks, all the way to the other migrant house, where they grabbed 40 people. They broke their own laws and regulations.
KNOLL: Alberto Velasquez traveled from Honduras and had just finished eating at the dining hall when migration arrived.
ALBERTO VELASQUEZ, HONDURAN MIGRANT (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We were here eating in the dining hall and we had just finished. We were waiting for the train to come. And then all of a sudden, then I saw some of my fellow countrymen starting to run, but we never imagined that it was migration. Migration stayed at that intersection back there, and then those who arrived were the police. They grabbed my countrymen and aggressively yanked them, cursing at them, and then entered the dining hall. I ran to the right and a policeman told me that if I took another step further he would shoot.
It's not fair that they do this and that they do this to others on this journey.
KNOLL: The migrant house in Huehuetoca had previously been shut down by local authorities, who claimed it was linked to organized crime. It had only been reopened a few months before the raid.
Eduardo Barragan, who is the secretary of the city council of HueHuetoca, spoke in a press conference about the raid.
EDUARDO BARRAGAN, HUEHUETOCA GOV. SECRETARY (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We are trying to mitigate the presence of migrants in situations that we have seen like that of San Jose, or waiting at the speed bumps on street corners, or asking for money in the market, or drinking in public.
KNOLL: Numerous immigrants interviewed at the migrant house recounted stories of abuse by authorities, from train engineers to local police.
Luis Fernando Martinez traveled from Honduras with his girlfriend and said that as they crossed the southern Mexican states of Chiapas and Veracruz, they not only faced torrential rains and robbery, but also confronted kidnappers, who he believes are in cahoots with the police.
LUIS FERNANDO MARTINEZ, HONDURAN MIGRANT (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We arrived at Medios Aguas and we started to see many things there, things to deceive the people, things related to extortion or kidnapping. They say they want to bring you to a house for a shower. But those of us who are a little more astute than others started to realize that they want to bring you to their house to give you a bath, to give you something to eat, but with the intention of kidnapping us. I ask of Mexico, why do they not even have a police command? During the day at minimum we see one police officer. Come night time you won't see a single cop. The bad people buy off the police there. They know that they can get 4,000 or 5,000 dollars from one migrant, and they know to buy off the policeman it is just 10,000 dollars.
KNOLL: Martinez lived in the United States before but said he wasn't even going to try to enter this time because of the prevalence of violence in the north. An estimated 10,000 migrants are kidnapped or disappeared in Mexico each year, according to Mexico's National Commission on Human Rights. The bolstering of the wall and border security also entered the conversation with Martinez.
An article recently published in Forbes magazine stated that "the Immigration Modernization Act reads like a shopping list of high-tech and high-cost military surveillance and sensor systems, mandating the purchase of everything from helicopters to night vision goggles to drones." It will dedicate over $30 million to increased border security, much of which will go to defense contractors.
Rodriguez questioned why migration politics are so focused on preventing human transit while simultaneously there is a strong demand for labor. She said there's an urgency for the U.S. to enter into agreements with Mexican and Central American countries to create more work-related visas.
Velasquez echoed this sentiment. He lived in the United States for many years, but was forced to return to Honduras following his deportation.
VELASQUEZ: The United States, thanks to us, has grown and keeps growing. We are also dependent on them, at times too much. Thanks to them our families have survived.
KNOLL: In the coming weeks, the House of Representatives will vote on immigration reform and the attached security measures.
Humanitarian activists in Mexico say they will continue to provide food and shelter to migrants and demand that their right to freedom of movement not be criminalized.
Andalusia Knoll, The Real News Network, Mexico City.