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11/7 US-Mexico Border: Migrant Shelter Besieged

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    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 10, 2009
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      Migrant Shelter Besieged

      November 7, 2009

       
      A Catholic Church-run migrant shelter in the northern Mexican state of
      Coahuila is the target of escalating attacks. Every day, Casa del Migrante
      Posada Belen in the state capital of Saltillo serves between 80-100 mainly
      Central American migrants headed to the United States. But since last
      month, staff and property have been busy responding to aggression,
      harassment and death threats.

      Father Pedro Pantoja Arreola, shelter coordinator, reported that threats
      against his person reached a fever pitch one evening last week when he
      received 50 anonymous telephone calls in the space of several hours.
      According to Pantoja, he could hear no words spoken on the other end of
      the line-only breathing.

      Earlier, on October 11, a shelter worker observed a group of about 12
      people destroying an electricity meter and cutting off power. Later, on
      October 25, a group of unidentified persons broke windows and destroyed an
      electrical transformer, again shutting off power to the building. The
      vandals reportedly shouted insults at the occupants inside and warned them
      to leave the premises. On October 28, yet another group attempted to
      forcibly enter the shelter, according to a letter from a network of 40
      Mexican human rights organizations directed at high Mexican officials.

      In the wake of the attacks, Saltillo Bishop Raul Vera accused the local
      National Action Party (PAN) of creating a climate of hostility around the
      presence of migrants. In particular, Bishop Vera singled out PAN state
      legislator Carlos Orta for allegedly orchestrating a “campaign of
      xenophobia” against Central American migrants.

      Supported by other state lawmakers, Orta is pushing a legislative
      initiative that urges the Mexican Congress to modify immigration
      legislation and give Mexico’s Interior Ministry, an agency responsible for
      internal security, authority to regulate church-run shelters. Orta
      spearheaded the initiative after a Honduran immigrant was accused of
      killing a local businessperson on September 30.

      In his preamble to the proposed legislation, Orta made reference to the
      “brutal murder of a citizen at the hands of a foreigner.” The PAN
      representative said the “eternal conflict” between victims and criminals
      was evidenced by the September 30 slaying of the Saltillo merchant.
      According to Orta, migrant shelters should toe the line with National
      Migration Institute (INM) rules and regulations governing the presence of
      foreigners in Mexico.

      “It’s regrettable and condemnable that someone who should be taking
      advantage of his position to do good is instead committing injustices,”
      Bishop Vera said of Orta. “We citizens don’t pay (politicians) high
      salaries for this.”

      Stretching from Chiapas to Chihuahua, church-sponsored migrant centers
      provide food, medical attention and shelter to thousands of Central
      Americans traveling to the United States. On the border, the facilities
      also give assistance to undocumented migrants deported from the US.

      Despite the recession and tougher US border controls, the shelters
      continue welcoming large numbers of people from both directions.

      Jesus Gerardo Lopez Macias, Saltillo INM delegate, said many Latin
      Americans, especially adolescents, keep making their way north. In Ciudad
      Juarez, the Casa del Migrante reported receiving 6,000 deportees through
      October 31 of this year-a sharp increase over 2008 when the shelter
      assisted 3,500 migrants for the entire year.

      In the Saltillo region, tensions and troubles have accompanied the migrant
      surge in recent years. In 2002, two Honduran migrants, Delmer Alexander
      Pacheco and a man known only as Jose David, were murdered near train
      tracks. According to the INM’S Lopez, young migrants face ongoing dangers
      from sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

      As in other regions of Mexico, organized bands of traffickers have
      increasingly attempted to channel the migrant stream in Coahuila under
      their control.

      In response to the incidents at Casa del Migrante Posada Belen, the
      Migration Forum network as well as Amnesty International issued statements
      condemning the attacks and demanding urgent actions by Mexican authorities
      to safeguard the shelter and its staff.

      Until now, protective measures recommended by the National Human Rights
      Commission, which were accepted by the federal Public Security Ministry,
      have not been effective in eliminating threats to the shelter, the
      Migration Forum charged.


      Sources: La Jornada, November 3, 4 and 6, 2009. Articles by Leopoldo Ramos
      and Emir Olivares Alonso. Zocalo.com.mx, October 27 and November 6, 2009.
      Articles by Paola A. Praga and El Universal news service. Norte, November
      3, 2009. Article by Claudia Ivonne Sanchez.


      Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
      Center for Latin American and Border Studies
      New Mexico State University Las Cruces,New Mexico

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