The reasons that led Greici, Wilfredo and Jonathan to migrate to Mexico

The biggest lesson that Mexico has taught Greici Gallardo, a 32-year-old Honduran, is “not to trust people.” The image he had of a country with open arms vanished after crossing the Suchiate River, on the border with Guatemala. The dream turned into a nightmare in Tapachula (Chiapas), a city turned into an open-air prison for more than 30,000 migrants who remain in detention. In that town, the son of a friend of her mother, who took her in for five months, abused her. Gallardo was silent: “I was scared because I am a foreigner.” Now she is relieved in the capital. Her nine-year-old son Cristopher plays alongside her with a Buzz Lightyear mask on. The little one needs growth hormones after having heart surgery. Serving yourself in your homeland is practically impossible. His story is that of hundreds of thousands who have seen in Mexico the best option to get ahead. Despite all that that means.

The tragedy in Chiapas, where 56 people – mostly from Guatemala – died after a truck overturned, where they were traveling crowded together last week, is a wound that is still fresh. To a large extent, the accident reflects everything that is wrong with the way the government has dealt with the latest waves of migration. The routes are becoming increasingly dangerous due to harassment by security forces. Jonathan Cuéllar, a 29-year-old Salvadoran, insists that these deaths could be avoided: “Traveling like this, in those conditions … That is desperation. They can’t possibly be forced to do that. “

Greici Gallardo, a Honduran migrant, meets her young son at the Jesuit Migrant Service facilities, located in Mexico City.
Greici Gallardo, a Honduran migrant, meets her young son at the Jesuit Migrant Service facilities, located in Mexico City.Nayeli cruz

Cuéllar was not in the box of that trailer, but he has experienced firsthand the dangers of crossing through Mexico. He was kidnapped along with his wife Wendy and their two-year-old daughter in Oaxaca. They spent 23 days in a safe house. They were deceived by a woman at the Juchitán bus station (720 kilometers southeast of the state capital) who approached them to offer them a job. “They were asking us for $ 6,000 to free us,” he recalls from the Jesuit Migrant Service center, in the Roma neighborhood of the capital. One day, when his captors left, Cuéllar forced the door and ran with his family. A good Samaritan gave them 400 pesos ($ 19) and they traveled to Mexico City.

The fear is not only of drug trafficking or the terrible conditions to embark on the route north, it is also of deportation. Cuéllar has already been expelled before. In February, he was arrested in Monterrey, where he lived for two years, and flown to Guatemala. From there he walked back to El Salvador. The security forces have broken records of arrests of migrants in 2021. As of October this year, the government has detained more than 228,000 people and expelled 82,600. These are figures that have not been seen in 20 years.

Address structural causes

The day after the accident in Chiapas, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador again used a phrase with which he wanted to deal, at least from the morning pulpit, the migration crisis: “It must serve to tackle the causes.” In its rosary of proposals has been the implementation of the Sowing Life and Youth Building the Future programs. In addition to a rain of investments in Central America. But for Jorge Atilano, assistant to the Provincial for Social Work of the Society of Jesus, this is not enough. “That will not solve the problem, what is needed is a better understanding,” he says on the phone.

Atilano has met several times with the Government since February. Last Monday he presented the report Posture of the Society of Jesus in Mexico and Central America in the face of forced migrations. The cleric has succeeded in getting the Government to take the study as a guideline and is waiting for working groups to be created to implement some of the measures they propose.

The 17-page document, to which EL PAÍS has had access, analyzes and concludes that there are seven structural causes that have led to the forced migration of Central Americans. Among them are insecurity, disillusionment with democratic systems and deficiencies in social protection systems (such as public health). In addition, it proposes a regional program to serve Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, which account for 85% of refugee applications.

Cuéllar, for example, has requested asylum because returning to his country could mean death. He was threatened by the gangs, who left his brother hospitalized. They beat him with sticks wrapped in wire because he did not want to join them. “I left when he was still recovering,” he says. Despite his abduction, he feels calm and safe walking the streets of Mexico.

Jonathan Cuéllar, a Salvadoran migrant, at the Jesuit Migrant Service.
Jonathan Cuéllar, a Salvadoran migrant, at the Jesuit Migrant Service.Nayeli cruz

A slow bureaucracy

From an Uber on his way to work as a monitor in the home delivery area of ​​a WalMart supermarket, in the south of the capital, Wilfredo Jiménez, a 53-year-old Venezuelan, says that he has not seen his family in four. This MBA with graduate studies in Industrial Relations needs to raise money to pay for an operation on his wife’s eye. She only has one and if she loses the latter she would go blind. It’s Wednesday morning, just one day before was his wife’s birthday. Thinking about it makes your eyes water. After a long pause, he reflects: “This is how this is … we must continue.” He sends about 600 pesos ($ 28.47) a week back home, it is the same as he earned in a whole month in his country. “But even so it is not enough,” he concludes.

Jiménez has been lucky. He arrived by plane as a tourist and began his procedures at the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) with the help of the Jesuits. In January he received his permanent residence card. Cuéllar had to wait longer. In part, because he was unaware that, according to Mexican law, he had only 30 days from his arrival to apply for asylum: “It doesn’t make sense. How are you going to review the laws when you starve and are walking miles and miles looking for work?

Experts usually estimate that, if all goes well, the authorities will solve the cases in about two or three months. But that is in theory, in practice – as has been seen in Tapachula – the thing extends sine die. According to COMAR, 108,195 asylum requests have been received from January to October. It is the largest record in history.

Wilfredo Jiménez, a Venezuelan migrant, in Mexico City, on December 10, 2021.
Wilfredo Jiménez, a Venezuelan migrant, in Mexico City, on December 10, 2021.Nayeli cruz

In the middle of the interview, Greici hears for the first time about the news of the trailer overturned in Chiapas. He starts crying. Little Cristopher has already gone upstairs to play on the second floor of the Jesuit Migrant Service. He can’t stop thinking about the minors who lost their lives in the accident. She wipes her tears with her hand and releases a message without breaking her voice: “Yes [sus compatriotas] they have a way to live their life there, so they don’t come. Don’t risk it, don’t risk your children. I’m here for him. I do not think about my future, only about their well-being ”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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