Thursday, December 08, 2022

Migrants march from southern Mexico as US lifts COVID restrictions

TAPACHULA, Mexico ( Associated Press) — Nearly 500 migrants from Central America, Venezuela and elsewhere fought with Mexican police, National Guard and immigration officials in southern Mexico on Friday in one of the first marches of this year.

Migrants described the march as a traditional annual protest related to Holy Week, and those in front carried a white cross, as others have done in previous years.

However, this year the protests came two weeks earlier and some participants said they would go far beyond the usual short march and try to reach the US border.

In conflict with National Guard officers and immigration agents, migrants used the cross as a beating ram to break through guard lines, shattering wooden crosses.

The officers, who had riot shields, batons and what appeared to be an irritating spray, detained some of the marchers. Both sides clashed with each other and many migrants left their bags in the scuffle.

Some managed to break through the dirt roads and paths and disappear, but the rest of the marchers took refuge in a church just a few miles from Tapachula.

Migrants left the southern Mexico city of Tapachula, near the border with Guatemala, early Friday. Migrants have complained that they are essentially confined to Tapachula due to the slow processing of their asylum cases and are unable to find work in the border state of Chiapas that would allow them to support their families.

“They are practically making us prisoners; They do not allow us to leave this state because we are not regulars here,” said Noredi Chavez, a Venezuelan expatriate. “They require us to get the visa, but we never get an answer. We fill out the paperwork, but they never process it.”

Reynaldo Bello, a Peruvian migrant, joined the march with his wife and child as the family stayed in a park and starved while waiting for their immigration paperwork.

March came as US President Joe Biden’s administration announced it would end a policy that allows asylum seekers to return on grounds of protecting the country from the coronavirus pandemic.

Migrants have been expelled from the US more than 1.7 million times under the policy, known as Title 42 of the Public Health Act, which went into effect in March 2020.

The US Centers for Disease Control said on Friday it would end the authorization effective May 23.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the order this week, nearing the height of the Omron version in late January.

Luis García Villagran, an immigration activist with the Center for Human Identification, said Mexican immigration officials had largely closed most visa procedures in Tapachula and told migrants that the only way to regularize their stay in Mexico was to seek asylum. Was through a long process of applying. refugee status.

A migrant march was broken up in the same area in January, and similar efforts were breached by police and immigration agents in 2021 and 2020. March 2018 and 2019 are significantly smaller than the caravans that brought thousands of migrants to the US border.

The caravan began several years ago for migrants who did not have the money to pay smugglers, taking advantage of the security in numbers as they headed towards the US border. However, Guatemala and Mexico became more aggressive in breaking up caravans.

The Mexican government has tried to appease the United States by stopping caravans of foot migrants and allowing it to reinstate the so-called “Stay in Mexico” policy.

But Mexico has been unable to stop the influx of hundreds of migrants into trucks operated by smugglers who charge thousands of dollars to transport them to the US border, trips that often turn fatal.

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