At least 56 migrants — mostly from Guatemala, many of them families with minor children — being transported from Mexico’s southern border region to the country’s heartland in Puebla by smugglers, were recently killed in an apparent road accident, with dozens more seriously injured.
This unspeakably tragic event is being widely reported as “accidental” in a more fundamental sense — as an exceptional event that was beyond anyone’s control, at the margins of human will or the stratagems of political power. Many who have dedicated their lives fighting for the rights of migrants around the world find that the grief over these tragic deaths is tempered by the recognition of all the ways in which migrant suffering and death has affected them. have been utterly normalizedBecause of the prevailing immigration policies.
From this perspective, the recent migrant deaths in Chiapas — and those of 651 more at the United States-Mexico border in 2021, a new record, as well as more than 7,000 there since 1998, plus tens of thousands globally — are the largely unaccounted human cost of the policies of containment and repression of “irregular” migrant flows that have been imposed on a planetary scale. This incident’s toll marks the highest number of migrant deaths in a single instance since the massacre of 72 migrants in San Fernando, TamaulipasThe border with the United States is only 90 minutes away. In August 2010, mass graves were discovered in the same area, with hundreds of additional victims.
This is a form of persecution, terror, and death targeting migrants Because of their status and identity as migrants gives these incidents a genocidal dimension and triggers their recognition, at minimum, as “crimes against humanity,” pursuant to Articles 6 and 7the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as well as its relevant case law, and interpretations. This includes “killing” members of an identifiable social group, and “other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.”
All of these deaths are proximate outcomes of the paradigm of “prevention through deterrence”Both the U.S. authorities and Mexican authorities are enforcing the border together. This is what is at the coreThere are two main mechanisms for exclusion: Title 42 (the) and the “Remain in Mexico”(or Migrant Protection Protocols), policies the Biden administration inherited during the worst days of Trump’s era. They are still being implemented and expanded with Mexican complicity. Together, in practiceThese policies have made it impossible to seek asylum at the U.S. borders. They have also exiled asylum seekers in precarious, life-threatening situations of violence and persecution on Mexican soil.
Both U.S. and Mexican authorities clothe these abuses in the rhetoric of “safe, orderly, and regular” migration promoted by the Global Compact on Migration. Similar policiesAustralia and the European Union have pursued this strategy with convergent human costs. It is striking to see, in the meantime, how spokespersons for the United Nations secretary-general and others have seized upon the news from Chiapas — and similarly, how others have responded to mass migrant deaths in the Mediterranean or the English Channel — as occasions to call for even more stringent measures of “controlled” migration.
This kind of measures have been taken at the U.S. border with Mexico at the same time that Mexico has been thrown into the abyss. worst human rights crisisIn its recent history, hundreds of thousands have been killed tens of thousands of victims of forced disappearancesThis includes at least 70,000 migrants kidnapped since 2011. Migrant women and girls are subject to recurrent sexual violence in this overall landscape. The migrant deaths in Chiapas came at the close of the same week that began with the Biden administration’s joint announcement with Mexican authorities that Remain in Mexico was being reactivated and extendedAsylum seekers from the Western Hemisphere are welcome.
The majority of victims of the migrant tragedy that struck Chiapas were from Guatemalan Indigenous communities, as well as others from Ecuador, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. Migration from Guatemala’s poorest and most marginalized Indigenous communities has soared since 2014, amid increasing hunger and the devastations of climate change induced by neoliberal mega-development projects, in many of the same regions where the country’s genocidal violence was concentrated in the 1980s, with U.S. backing. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to embrace the country’s current corrupt and illegitimate leadership, and to train, arm and finance the Guatemalan security forces that beat and gas migrant caravansas part the same containment policies that Mexico and the U.S. impose at their borders, full of children and women.
The news of the deaths of migrants in Chiapas was reported amid widespread Mexican and international observances of December 10. International Human Rights DayIt marks the 73rd year since the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. It was also issued shortly before. International Migrants Day, on December 18, observed globally as well, commemorating the date of the adoption in 1990 of the UN’s core treaty focused on migrant rights. But Mexico’s tragedy reminds us how distant migrants are from the protections supposedly accorded by such instruments, at the hands of states such as the U.S. and Mexico, or those of the EU.
Migrants continue to be at the margins of the “rules-based international order” that was celebrated at the Biden administration’s “Summit for Democracy” and will remain so until the right to freedom of movementFor all those who have been denied dignity of life in their homes and communities.
There will be more news about tragedies like the one in Chiapas. Meanwhile, migrants around the world will continue to seek dignity, freedom, and justice, which the neoliberal order and the complicity with countries of origin and transit will not allow them to.