COATZACOALCOS, México (AP) — Mexican authorities discovered more than 400 migrants transiting the country in the back of two semi-trailers Friday, not far from where two migrant caravans were more visibly, and slowly, making their way north.
The migrants were held by authorities in a walled yard until federal immigration agents could retrieve them.
“There were more than 400,” said Tonatiuh Hernández Sarmiento, of the Veracruz Human Rights Commission, after visiting the migrants. “Some were very dirty, covered in mud, I imagine because of the conditions of the containers … the overcrowding. I imagine that because of the heat they were really wet.”
There were children, pregnant women and ill people among them, he said.
While the caravans of hundreds of migrants walking by day together up highways draw more attention, the clandestine flow of migrants who pay smugglers for direct trips to the U.S. border continues.
The leaders of Mexico, the United States and Canada discussed immigration during meetings in Washington Thursday at the North America Leaders’ Summit. Their statements after the meetings were positive and optimistic, but light on details.
The three countries agreed to increase the paths for legal migration, for example with more visas for temporary workers. They also pledged to expand access to protective status for migrants and to address the causes that lead them to migrate, but did not offer hard numbers or timelines.
“It wasn’t something substantial, I see it as stagnant, there aren’t advances,” said Alejandra Macías, director of the nongovernmental organization Asylum Access Mexico.
Maureen Meyer, vice president for Latin American Affairs at the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights organization, said that their reaffirming of migrants’ and asylum seekers’ rights is positive, “but actions on the ground, particularly in Mexico and at the U.S.-Mexico border, continue to violate the rights of migrants, deny them access to protection, and allow crimes and human rights abuses to occur with impunity.”
The migrant caravan currently in Veracruz is the first to advance so far in the past two years, because since 2019, security forces have stopped and dissolved the caravans.
This time, the Mexican government used the offer of humanitarian visas to diminish the caravan’s numbers as it slowly moved north, but some have remained suspicious and continued walking. Some migrants who received the documents have reported being swept up by authorities in the north and returned to Tapachula near the Guatemala border.
That’s why Abel Louigens of Haiti decied to join the caravan that left Tapachula on Thursday with some 2,000 other migrants.
“They give you a paper, but only for Tapachula,” he said. “You can’t travel all over Mexico, you can’t catch a bus to look for work, but in Chiapas there’s no work.” He said he would settle wherever he could find work in Mexico and only enter the U.S. legally. “I can’t risk them sending me back to my country.”
AP writer María Verza in Mexico City and Raul Vera in Huixtla, Mexico contributed to this report.