Migrants fearful after hundreds arrested in Mexico raid

Tuesday, April 23, 2019
By Paul Martin

By MARK STEVENSON and SONIA PÉREZ D.
APNews.com
4/23/2019

TONALA, Mexico (AP) — Central American migrants traveling through southern Mexico toward the U.S. on Tuesday fearfully recalled their frantic escape from police the previous day, scuttling under barbed wire fences into pastures and then spending the night in the woods after hundreds were detained in a raid.

In the Chiapas state town of Tonala, migrants flocked to one of the few places they felt they could be safe — the local Roman Catholic Church — only to start with fear at the sound of a passing ambulance’s siren.

“There are people still lost up in the woods. The woods are very dangerous,” said Arturo Hernández, a sinewy 59-year-old farmer from Comayagua, Honduras, who fled through the woods with his grandson. “They waited until we were resting and fell upon us, grabbing children and women.”

Mexican immigration authorities said 367 people were detained Monday in what was the largest single raid so far on a migrant caravan since the groups started moving through the country last year. Journalists from The Associated Press saw police target isolated groups at the tail end of a caravan of about 3,000 near Pijijiapan, wrestling migrants into police vehicles for transport and presumably deportation as children wailed.

Now terrified of walking exposed on the highways, some turned in desperation to a tactic that used to be a popular way north, clambering aboard a passing freight train bound for the neighboring state of Tabasco. It’s been years since migrants hopped trains in large numbers.

Javier Núñez, 25-year-old Honduran, said he and his family walked through the hills, along a river and by some train tracks after the raid before venturing into the town of Pijijiapan to find something to eat. But agents appeared again Monday night and detained his wife and son, who he said were taken to an immigration facility in Tapachula for deportation processing.

“They were hunting us,” Núñez said. As he sees it, the only thing to do is go on alone, see how far he can make it. “Now we are afraid of everyone who looks at us or approaches.”

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