Squalid migrant shantytown forms in Mexican border city

Tuesday, May 14, 2019
By Paul Martin

By Patrick Timmons
MAY 14, 2019

TAPACHULA, Mexico, May 14 (UPI) — African and Haitian migrants stranded for two months in southern Mexico during an immigration crackdown begun by the United States are living in a roadside shantytown whose squalid conditions endanger health and hurt nearby small businesses, residents and local migrant aid organizations say.

“I’ve never seen it like this and I’ve lived here 30 years. My business is suffering,” said Narciso Lopez Flores, a convenience store owner in Tapachula. “Piles of trash are everywhere and people are defecating near to where they have to sleep. I’m worried about everybody’s health, my family’s and theirs.”

Mexico’s crackdown on undocumented migrants trying to reach the U.S.-Mexico border is one of the government’s responses to President Donald Trump’s threat to close the U.S.-Mexico border.

The increased enforcement has stranded thousands of desperate and frustrated migrants in towns and cities at least 950 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. Migrants without Mexican immigration documents cannot take buses or fly on planes from Tapachula, as they cannot pass through numerous immigration checkpoints. Mexico detains and deports undocumented migrants it catches.

Immigration officials said they are only applying existing laws, albeit with new rigor.

“The truth is that these laws have always existed, but they were never applied,” said an immigration official in Mexico City speaking on condition of anonymity. “We are now applying the law. Every undocumented migrant risks deportation if they enter the country illegally and do not register with immigration officials.”

Mexico’s new approach means several hundred African and Haitian migrants are stranded, exhausted and increasingly sick after fleeing Haiti or African countries.

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