Didn't anyone see the 14,000 Haitians?
Last week, we had dinner with Mexican friends who said two things about the border crisis. First, they commented that Mexicans are sick and tired of foreigners walking through their country. Second, our friends are not the only ones asking how the Haitians got to the U.S. After all, it is a "long walk" to go from Guatemala to Del Rio, Texas. I've driven in the interior of Mexico, and the roads are adequate, but it's still a long distance.
Mexican journalist Javier Garza-Ramos, from Coahuila, a border city, is reporting that many south of the border want to know how it happened:
This is something the governor of Coahuila, Miguel Ángel Riquelme, would like to know.
"It's clear the federal government did not make an effort to contain them," he told me. "Because they were traveling for some time. How did they cross the country? How long were they traveling?" .
To get to Acuña from Mexico City by land, a person must travel through five states. Even though the National Guard polices bus stations, has checkpoints in the highways of Coahuila and has surveillance in railroads, these migrants were not stopped.
Over the past month, migrants came to Acuña and crossed to Del Río, where the Border Patrol caught them and put them in a makeshift camp under the bridge. And yet people kept coming until more than 14,000 migrants were spread out under the bridge and in shelters in Acuña and surrounding towns. A camp of 14,000 people equals almost 10% the population of Acuña and almost half the population of Del Rio. Border agents sorted people, allowing some to apply for asylum and deporting others, eventually dispersing the camp.
How did this happen in a country where "federales" search bus stations for Central Americans going north? To be fair, Mexicans enjoy a lot of freedom, but illegal aliens have always had a hard time evading the authorities. Just talk to any Central American who's had to endure the interviews and intimidation of Mexican authorities. Young women are especially scared to death of being seen at stores or bus depots. One young woman from El Salvador told me that women avoid talking to give away their accents.
So how did 14,000 black Haitians walk through Mexico? They don't speak Spanish, and they sure look different. There aren't a lot of black Mexicans.
Who helped them?
Well, someone did, and my friends in Mexico fear that criminal elements are behind it all. They charge to move people and probably pay off a few authorities on the walk north.
Some say Mexico let them go north for two reasons: they can't stay in Mexico, and Haiti won't take them back. Many of these Haitians came from South America, where they were apparently working, but those countries don't want them back, either.
What does mean to us? Well, what we saw in Del Rio is likely to be repeated somewhere else. More are coming!
PS: You can listen to my show (Canto Talk).
Image: Haitians crossing into America. YouTube screen grab.
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