A Cuban Couple, Victims of Mistreatment at a Migration Station in Mexico

The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has registered more than 4,000 complaints of human rights violations of migrants in their transit through Mexico. (Captura)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ángel Salinas, Mexico, 31 March 2023 — Yamilé, a Cuban woman, was illegally detained for five days at the Acayucan station of the National Institute of Migration (INM), in the Mexican state of Veracruz, and her husband José, for 12 days. “Once they admit you, they take away your papers and your cell phone. It’s hell. There is harassment by the agents, mistreatment, extortion. They sell you a sanitary pad for 25 pesos ($1), toilet paper for 35 pesos,” this habanera tells 14ymedio, adding that they transported the couple to the border with Guatemala.

“Human rights do not exist. A woman with asthma had her medicines withheld until she paid 500 pesos,” she said. They told Yamilé’s husband to continue to Tijuana to be processed by Customs and Border Patrol because the application process was overwhelmed. “Keep going, because if you go back to Tapachula they can put you in jail,” they warned him.

“Those who arrive to help you are coyotes, who tell you that they are lawyers. They asked us for $1,000 each to release us; a group of seven Colombians, $2,700; and a Venezuelan and her daughter, $1,300,” she says.

Yamilé says that the migrants in Acayucan are overcrowded because every day people arrive from Guatemala, Venezuela, some Cubans and Haitians. “There are people who have been there for 25 days and don’t know if they are going to be returned to their country. You are imprisoned like a criminal.” Before leaving the immigration station, they threatened to deport her if she came back. “I’m already registered.”

The editorial staff of 14ymedio has received complaints of Cubans who have been imprisoned in the immigration centers of Acayucan (Veracruz), Siglo XXI (Tapachula) and Las Agujas (Mexico City). Relatives of Luis Ángel Sánchez said that he spent several days in the capital. The agents accused him of having entered illegally, even when he had a safe-conduct pass and humanitarian parole from the United States.

A law firm contacted Sánchez’s relatives and offered to release him  in exchange for $5,000. After several days, he was released and is now with his family in the United States. Migration stations have made extortion the bargaining chip so that Cubans can move forward on their journey through Mexico.

The human rights violations of migrants in transit through Mexico to the United States have been duly recorded in 4,424 complaints received by the CNDH against the INM between 2020 and 2022, but only 48 recommendations were issued.

“From 2018 to 2023, which corresponds to the Government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, most of the National Security posts have been militarized, including the migration centers,” said migrant advocate Jose Luis Pérez Jiménez.

In the case of the 39 migrants who died in the fire at the provisional stay center in Ciudad Juárez, attorney Pérez Jiménez says: “Migration was fully responsible not only for the fires in the center, but also for the overcrowding, the systematic violation of the rights of those housed and the torture and mistreatment suffered by migrants at the hands of police officers and immigration agents.”

Migration has become dehumanized, said the migrant ombudsman, and this is because the Government of López Obrador has “militarized” the detention centers for foreigners who enter illegally.

The military is not prepared, and “their treatment of migrants is not the most ideal,” Pérez Jiménez explained. “We see it in Mexico City at the Las Agujas station, controlled by José Luis Valenzuela, a soldier with a bad reputation. Another case took place in Tapachula, which until recently was controlled by General Aristeo Taboada. The captain of the Navy, Jorge Alejandro Palau Hernández, is in Acayican. These are examples of only three migrartion centers, but obviously almost all of them have been militarized by López Obrador.”

Palau Hernández was removed from his position as director of the Siglo XXI immigration station, in Tapachula, after a video was released in which he could be seen beating a migrant. He was transferred to Las Agujas, where several Cubans have been detained, from whom they tried to extort money.

Important for #INAMI to clarify if this information is true

Jorge Alejandro Palau Hernández, who was director of the Siglo 21 Migration Station, in Tapachula, #Chiapas, and was removed from his position after the beating of a #migrant, is now head of the #CDMX immigration station. pic.twitter.com/QaCQFH830S — Eunice Rendón (@EuniceRendon) September 25, 2021

During his usual morning conference this Friday, López Obrador said: “I confess, the issue of the 39 deceased migrants has hurt me a lot, it has hurt me (…) it moved me, it broke my soul.” The Mexican president announced a reform within the INM and the formation of an external council so that the human rights of people in transit are not violated, for which he has the collaboration of Father Alejandro Solalinde.

More than a reform of the INM, Jose Luis Pérez Jiménez says that there is an urgent need for reform to the Migration Law, so that “the accommodation for a migrant is not understood by the INM as a pretrial detention. As long as this is not specified, there will continue to be abuses by migration agents.”

“It is also necessary to repeal Article 111 Part 5 of the Migration Law,” says the lawyer, because currently the agents use it to “pressure migrants to leave the shelters.” When they are released they give them “a resolution that, most of the time, is a permit for them to leave the country in 20 days, not so they can go to the border with the United States, and they don’t tell them that.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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