Human Rights and Civil Society

Migrants, human trafficking victims in Mexican spotlight

Central American migrants in Mexico. Photo: Associated Press.
Central American migrants in Mexico. Photo: Associated Press.

05/03/14 (written by dsánchez) — Several incidences in recent weeks have called into question the protection of human rights for vulnerable populations in Mexico, particularly that of migrants. On April 30, the Tabasco state police, Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF), and National Migration Institution (Instituto Nacional de Migración, INM) oversaw an operation that led to the arrest of 291 undocumented Central American migrants, which included children and at least three expectant mothers, outside the municipality of Emiliano Zapato in Tabasco. Two days later, the INM detained another group of undocumented migrants in the community of Pakalná in the bordering state of Chiapas, though the exact number of migrants detained was not reported.

The arrests provoked accusations from several civil society organizations in Mexico criticizing the INM and police for violating the migrants’ human rights. For one, Marta Sánchez of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement (Movimiento Migrante Mesoamericana, MMM) alleged that the police in the Tabasco incident had violently assaulted the group of migrants, which included several Mexican priests and human rights activists that accompanied the migrants during and after their arrest. A shelter for migrant refugees, “La 72,” also condemned the police forces for detaining the migrants, and for jeopardizing the migrants’ safety, particularly of those who fled into surrounding hills without protection or shelter to avoid their arrest. Furthermore, human rights activists criticized the INM for accusations of sexually assaulting and injuring several individuals in the May 2 arrests in Chiapas.

Outside of openly criticizing the authorities involved, civil society organizations also generated an official document with almost 90 signatories demanding that the Peña Nieto administration respect the rights, asylum requests, and principles of humanity in their policy towards migrants. Activists and citizens were particularly angered by the federal government for pretending to plan a delivery of visas to the group of nearly 300 migrants, only to attack and arrest group members a few days later. According to Proceso as translated by Mexico Voices, the civil society organizations found the state and federal police, and INM to be partaking in “cruel and inhumane treatment,” and demanded that the government stop the process underway to deport the migrants from Mexico.

Migrants in Chiapas. Photo: Hugo Cruz, Proceso.
Migrants in Chiapas. Photo: Hugo Cruz, Proceso.

Highlighting the vulnerability of the migrant population, exactly one week prior to these arrests, 44 Guatemalan migrants were rescued in Chiapas, all victims of human trafficking. The operation to free the victims came after an anonymous tip warned Mexican officials of a human trafficking organization in Guatemala that has ties to Mexico and the United States. Once the Chiapas Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado, PGJE) confirmed the validity of the information and the criminal organization’s existence, the INM rescued the victims from a house in the Villaflores municipality where they were held captive. It was reported that at least two minors and six women were among the 44 victims. Six alleged offenders were also arrested and are being held in custody by Chiapas police as they face human trafficking charges. One of the detained suspects, who goes by the name Milton Rocael Sebastián Cardona, is among Guatemala’s most wanted suspects for transporting migrants from Guatemala to the United States.

Such incidences in Tabasco and Chiapas exemplify the risks that Central American migrants face as they travel north from countries like Guatemala and Honduras, not only from human trafficking and criminal organizations, but also from public security forces.


Mandujano, Isaín. “Rescatan a 44 migrantes guatemaltecos en Chiapas.” Proceso. April 24, 2014.

EFE. “Interceptan en México a casi 300 migrantes centroamericanos.” Univisión. May 1, 2014.

EFE. “Interceptan a casi 300 migrantes centroamericanos.” Milenio. May 1, 2014.

Redacción. “Denuncian nueva redada contra migrantes, ahora en Chiapas.” Proceso. May 2, 2014.  For the English version of this article, check out Mexico Voices’ translation here.

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