Migrant massacre in Mexico shows urgency of restoring asylum, advocates say

Border Crime

Guatemalan congressman releases names of 13 victims, says smugglers notified relatives of "accident"

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A Guatemalan congressman has released the names of 13 migrants he says were among 19 people shot to death and incinerated in a Mexican town near the U.S. border.

The list includes 10 men and three women who left the town of Comitancillo and two other communities earlier this month, fleeing poverty and lack of work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Four of them were minors.

“Since Saturday we’ve been in communication with the families. … these people have been told by the guides (smugglers) that their loved ones were in an accident,” Deputy Mario Ernesto Galvez told Guatemalan television.

The official said the relatives later learned, through the smugglers, that the migrants were murdered and burned along with at least one “guide” in the town of Santa Anita in Tamaulipas, Mexico.

Mario Ernesto Galvez (photo from Facebook)

Tamaulipas state authorities said they haven’t identified the victims of the Jan. 22 massacre because the bodies were burned beyond recognition. Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry has begun taking DNA samples from relatives for future forensic analysis.

Guatemala’s Prensa Libre interviewed families in Comitancillo who have set up altars and photographic memorials for the deceased migrants. One was an accountant who left to look for work in the U.S. to provide for a child he and his wife have on the way. Another was a young man who decided to drop out of high school to go work in the U.S. and provide for his little brothers. Another one was a rising star in the town’s soccer team.

The migrants had asked for loans from relatives and friends to pay the smuggling fee to the U.S.-Mexico border, according to Guatemalan television.

Mexican authorities in the state of Tamaulipas found 19 charred bodies inside a vehicle Jan. 22, 2020.

Advocacy groups say the massacre shows the need for the Biden administration to restore the asylum process and for the Mexican government to guarantee the safety and right to movement of refugees.

“These endemic patterns of violence demonstrate the urgency of cooperation between Mexico and the United States to address regional mixed migration flows in a way that protects migrants’ safety and human rights,” the Washington Office for Latin America said in a statement.

The Trump administration in mid-2019 pressured Mexico into shutting its southern border to migrant caravans from Central America. Simultaneously, it used programs like Migrant Protection Protocols to keep asylum seekers in Mexico until their cases were decided.

These actions are forcing migrants to seek entry into the United States in a clandestine manner, putting their lives in the hands of criminals and attempting to cross in areas where rival drug cartels are at war.

 “Mexico and the United States should work together to get in front of an avoidable crisis of violence against migrants,” the WOLA statement said. “Now is the time to ensure that the reversal of harmful U.S. border polices and joint plans to address root causes of migration in Central America are accompanied by equally necessary actions on the long and very dangerous journey through Mexico.”

The organization also called on the Mexican government to investigate and punish crimes against migrants.

Mexican media reports suggest the migrants and smugglers found in Santa Anita were killed by members of a drug cartel that also wants to control immigrant-smuggling in the region.

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