MEXICO.- La Bestia, the train that hundreds of Central Americans travel on top of and in between its wagons on their journey through Mexico to the U.S. border, may no longer be used for this purpose. According to Mexico’s Secretariat of the Interior, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, measures are being taken to restrict non-permitted use of the train. La Bestia has already claimed the lives of many migrants riding on it, and has also resulted in hundreds of injuries (including dismemberment) to those who have fallen off it.
In an interview reported on by Proceso Magazine, Osorio Chong states, “we are going to take control of this, we cannot continue to allow them [migrants] to put their lives at risk. It is our responsibility given that it happens within our borders. La Bestia is meant for the transportation of cargo, not passengers; we will have to put in place restrictions and during the
next coming days we will announce what they are.” These measures will be implemented specifically in Tabasco and Chiapas which are the main states where migrants board the train.
The announcement comes after reports of the train’s recent derailing early July (a not too uncommon occurrence) which resulted in twelve injuries. These measures also coincide with the “humanitarian crisis” occurring along the U.S./Mexico border, which has recently been front and center in the U.S. media.
This begs the question whether this measure is coming about as a result of increased pressure from the U.S. on Mexico to aid in impeding the flow of migrants from Central America.
Another measure that coincides in timeliness is the recent launch of a Central American migrant credential, which we reported on here, although it is said that this initiative had already been in the works and is unrelated to the migrant surge. Nonetheless, the U.S. has applauded Mexico for this measure which, it believes, will help stem the surge of migrants.
Additional actions will be taken by the Mexican government to ensure that migrants who are not legally in Mexico are returned to their countries of origin. Just last year alone, Mexico deported 85,000 migrants to Central America, and this year it is on the path to deport 90,000. Osorio Chong has indicated that anyone without a visa will be returned to their home countries. Conversely, it is expected that 90,000 unaccompanied minors will arrive at the U.S. border this year alone.
On the U.S. front, the Department of justice has announced that it will also be taking steps in conjunction with the Mexican government to confront the problem of unaccompanied minors, specifically by targeting organized crime and trafficking networks in Mexico. In the U.S., immigration courts, which are already severely backlogged, are expected to receive additional funding in order to expedite deportation proceedings and determine which cases warrant asylum. The U.S. has also launched targeted media campaigns in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala to educate the public on the dangers of venturing out on cross-country journeys.
Meanwhile, public perception in both countries, and across the aisles, appears to be highly critical of the job the U.S. federal government has done. Some accuse this administration of failing to guard the border, failing to identify the surge before it reached critical levels, and for passing laws that might have have given Central Americans an indication that new arrivals would receive leniency in the U.S.. Others are highly critical of politicians’ failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform; of the government’s failure to provide counsel to children in immigration court; of expediting removals at the risk of returning children to dangerous conditions back home; and of the the reported inhumane conditions and abuse sustained by children that are being housed by federal agencies.
Migrants who travel through Mexico are also critical of the country’s immigration policies. Back in April of this year, hundreds of migrants participated in a viacrucis -- a “way of the cross”-- to protest against Mexican authorities’ treatment of migrants. They believe that Mexico’s National Immigration Institute (INM) has become as much of an assailant of migrants as organized crime is. These protesters believe that if migrants were allowed to travel through the country freely, they would not have to ride La Bestia.