Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Friday, July 13, 2018

Ioan Grillo: Mexico's Own Refugee Surge

Posted by Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: USNWR

             Central Americans Fleeing Violence and Political Unrest Await Processing on Mexico's
                               Southern Border with nothing more than what they are wearing.
By: Ioan Grillo
Mexico’s Own Refugee Surge:
Tapachula, Mexico:  Yesica Cashpal had been celebrating Father's Day with her husband and two young children in their home in El Salvador when there was an ominous knock at the door from local gang members. Speaking to her husband, the gang members demanded they be able to utilize the house to stash drugs and weapons. When he refused, they became angry and said they would tell their boss and there would be consequences.

Comparing U.S. Detention Policies to Other Countries:

Cashpal, 24, knew the gang's threats were not idle; they had killed dozens in the area and three years ago murdered her very neighbor, leaving his body for hours in the sun while people were too scared to call the police. So the same night as the threat, the family abandoned their home and headed north with little more than the clothes they were wearing.

"They kill children, women, older men, youths," Cashpal says, hugging her son and daughter outside a church shelter in this humid city in southern Mexico. "When they killed my neighbor it was traumatic … everybody was looking while there were flies around his body, dogs licking the blood."

While many Salvadorans head to the United States, Cashpal has stayed here in Mexico, where she has begun the process of applying for refugee status. She says the family members had no money to travel further and are concerned about the reports of harsh treatment of refugees by U.S. authorities.

Their application is one of a surging number in Mexico amid criminal violence and political turmoil in several countries across Latin America.

In 2017, there were more than 14,000 refugee claims in Mexico, up from 2,000 in 2014, according to the United Nations refugee agency, or UNHCR. This year there will likely be more still, says a Mexican official who handles the requests and spoke on condition of anonymity.

President Donald Trump has complained that Mexico is not doing enough to stop the wave of people heading through its territory toward the Rio Grande. "Mexico does nothing for us," he said during a recent meeting of his Cabinet. "They encourage people, frankly, to walk through Mexico and go into the United States."

By taking on thousands of refugees, however, Mexico is relieving the burden on the overloaded U.S. courts. Mexico also detains large numbers of undocumented Central Americans who are not applying for refugee status here, and deports them back to their home countries.

In fiscal year 2017, Mexico deported more than 94,000 Central Americans – even more than the 74,000 deported from the United States in the same time, according to figures from the Migration Policy Institute cited by the newspaper Reforma.

Violence by gangs such as the Mara Salvatrucha drives many of the refugees from their homes in Central America's Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. But there has also been a wave of political turmoil, with bloody crackdowns on protesters in Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela over the past year. The top source countries of refugees arriving in Mexico are now Honduras, followed by Venezuela and then El Salvador, according to the UNHCR.

Luis Andara, 57, fled his home in Nicaragua and is applying for refugee status in Mexico, saying he has been targeted for his family links to the political-military apparatus, while he himself is not a government supporter. "I got stuck in the middle," he says, standing in a river outside the church shelter and scrubbing himself down with soap. "I was followed and I was beat up badly, I was thrown from a 7-meter bridge. … My hand was separated from the arm, hanging from a little bit of flesh."

                       June 25, 2018  Tapachula, Mexico Photo: Alejandro Cegarra for USN&WR

Sonya Matamoros holds her son outside of the Casa Belen shelter for migrants. The mother of four says she fled Honduras with her family when her brother-in-law was killed in front of her husband by members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang. 
Free to Go in Mexico:

In the United States, many refugees are kept in detention while their claims are processed, which can take months or even years. In Mexico, refugee claimants are left free, as long as they don't leave the state. "Here they treat you like a migrant, like a human. In the United States, they treat you like a criminal," says Elid Turcio, 38, who first applied for asylum in the United States but was rejected and is now applying in Mexico. He fled Honduras after his brother and parents were murdered by a drug trafficking gang.

U.S. courts deny the majority of asylum claims from Central Americans, rejecting 79 percent of those from El Salvador and 78 percent of those from Honduras between 2012 and 2017, according to Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. In contrast, Mexico approved 64 percent of refugee claims from Salvadorans and 50 percent of those from Hondurans last year, according to the UNHCR.

U.S. courts demand that refugees show they are persecuted by the government or are targeted for being from a vulnerable minority, and generally do not accept those who are fleeing gangsters. This position was hardened by a June 11 ruling by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. "Asylum was never meant to solve all problems – even all serious problems – that people face every day all over the world," Sessions said.

Can a Single Country Stop the Flow of Refugees?

In contrast in Mexico, refugee claims are usually only refused if there is not enough evidence of the threats themselves or if the claimant has a serious criminal record, explains an official from the Mexican Refugee Commission.

Many of the refugees arriving in Mexico sneak into the country from Guatemala,  walking over the hills or crossing one of the rivers, before making their application. In the Guatemalan border town of Tecun Uman, oarsmen charge about $1.30 to cross into Mexico on a raft built with tractor tires, and all day rafts full of people can be seen.

Most are local residents who go into Mexico to do their shopping, an informal cross-border commerce that has long been tolerated. Migrants and refugees move among them. They then can travel by bus to the larger city of Tapachula, although Mexican immigration officials run sporadic checkpoints on the road.

The entry of refugees and migrants has swelled Tapachula, with makeshift barrios emerging on the outskirts. The center is bustling with people from across the globe, not only from Latin America but as far afield as Africa. David Eca, 33, came from the Congo, where he says his father had been murdered in political violence. Flying to Ecuador, he traveled by land through South and Central America and aims to reach the United States and apply for asylum there.

Those seeking refuge in Mexico are not given work permits while their applications are processed, and many rely on charity while some beg for money. Others work without papers, toiling in coffee fields or construction sites. One pickup truck arrived by the church shelter to take a group to work for the promise of 150 pesos, or about $8, for the day.

Mexico's Own Violence:

Mexico also has its own serious problems of criminal violence, which can be as bad as in the countries people have run from. In 2017, journalist Edwin Rivera fled Honduras after threats but was then murdered in Veracruz, Mexico. Cartels here have also kidnapped large groups of Central Americans to demand ransom money, pressuring them to call family members they have in the United States. In the run-up to the July 1 national elections, more than 100 candidates or party militants were murdered.

"Mexico is not safe for those who flee violence," Doctors Without Borders said in a June 26 statement. "The impossibility of getting asylum in the United States would leave tens of thousands in a situation of extreme vulnerability."

Alongside refugees and migrants looking for work, some criminals also slip into southern Mexico without papers.   There are currently more than 100 foreigners in Tapachula's prison out of a total population of about 900. Most are undocumented Central Americans, including members of the rival Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 gangs, says public defense lawyer Luis Del Rosario.

The presence of Central American gang members also makes refugees concerned they could run into members of the same mobs they are fleeing. Turcio, who ran from Honduras, says he avoids the center of Tapachula so he is not seen by anyone connected to the drug trafficking gang who murdered his family.

Some others in the city, however, are less tolerant. Restaurant owner Angel Brindis says the Mexican government should work harder to stop foreigners entering who come to commit crimes rather than work, and has had to defend himself from robbery and assault on various occasions. "They come outside the business, drugged up or drunk, looking for problems," he says. "They hold up stores with knives and guns, they demand money from people walking by."

"We can't be indifferent about Central Americans. On the contrary, we have to give them the same respect and attention that we want for ourselves," he says. "It is like if Mexicans go to the United States, we want respect. We have to start here". Luis Del Rosario says he labors for a fair treatment for all the defendants, whatever the nationality.

Cashpal, the Salvadoran refugee, says she has received warm treatment in Mexico. When her family arrived at the river, the oarsman took pity on them, providing free transit and money for the bus.

                 Fear has followed her, but she says her faith gives her the strength to keep going.

"I trust in God that everything will be all right," she says. "But tomorrow, we don't know if we are going to wake up alive or what."

Ioan Grillo is a journalist and writer based in Mexico City. He is the author of "Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields and the New Politics of Latin America.

Check out my last Ioan Grillo Post for BB from Dec 13, 2017 HERE


  1. When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next - Mathew 10:23

    - Sol Prendido

    1. Oh shut up you lame "sol prendido"🖕

    2. How cute! Another little hater. - Sol Prendido

    3. That's how America was made, from European wanting a new life with the right to think and believe what you wished without being prosecuted for it.

    4. 9:31 europeans escaping hunger and death and pestilence and looking for a new life, were used by the colonizer corporations like the West Indies, almost forced to flee for their lives...SAME SHIT BEING DONE TO CENTRAL AMERICANS AND SAHARAN populations these days to help them be free christian and democratic and to teach them humble obedience and six sigma or 5S bullshit.

    5. 8:55 You dont know history.

  2. Yaqui,

    I realize you're reposting from Ioan Grillo's story with pics from US News and World Report, but the pic of (Detention Facility/Immigrant "Shelter" in McClellan Texas) was not taken there. Rather, it was taken in 2014 under President Obama’s term at the CBP Nogales Placement Center on June 18, 2014 by the Associated Press/Ross D. Franklin.

    Business Insider did a story by Michelle Mark on Jun. 19, 2018. You can find the story & pic here:

    1. Ok, thanks. I did add fotos that were not in this USNWR piece. This is not a Trump vs Obama issue to me.

    2. I didn't take it that way. Overall, a balanced story. You and the other contributors do a great job keeping us informed on what's really going on. It's why we come here.

    3. Too political. B.S. yaqui

    4. I love BB and I’m not knocking the staff I appreciate what you do but i have notice that the blog has stated to insert many left views in articles. Am I alone in feeling that BB is left leaning?

      It’s a great news source and I’m very grateful but I miss the day of pure facts reporting, but I still you all for what you do BB staff thank you 🙏

    5. This is an Ioan Grillo piece from US News and World Report.
      I Post plenty of “ fact based” news but I also like to post “ food for thought “ pieces so you commenters can discuss it. Period.
      If you prefer “ pure facts” you can peruse the US DOJ, DEA, USCBP, ATF websites etc and how pure is that ? Or try to figure out Mexican “reporting” and official govt statements , how “ fact “ based are they ?
      I just try to do my best.

  3. The immigration issue is a vast and complex problem for many countries.
    Whether due to economic conditions or fear of reprisals from gangs. Laws are not always favorable.
    Treatment and detention policies differ from a moral standpoint by many. Like that of ones opinions or beliefs.
    In the end; laws need to be respected and not taken for granted.

    To all borderlandbeat readers, we are aware of the many faces being displayed by those with their true agendas / beliefs. Some with humanitarian intentions and concerns. While others with racial discrimination.
    Immigration will always be a major problem for all countries. History has repeatedly proven that for centuries.
    The fear of uncertainty and stability in ones country is what drives many to behave the way they do.

    Suggest world leaders to assist to those affected countries and provide stability and security to avert mass exodus.

    That's one solution I'm sure of many.


  4. First and foremost don't forget the massacre these people endured with the political financing of the American government that payd for the ottrocities that alot of these now men endured. They witnessed their fathers uncle's and brothers being slaughtered while their moms, sisters and aunts we're raped.
    Then again there are so many good men in the region that try to raise a family the right way, but most Americans see them as brown Savage pagans. When in reality the majority of the population are relegius hard working folks, that need the assistance from outside powers to build schools and university's. Our people are no joke, our history, amazing, food, world class, women, loyal and beautiful. It's too bad they can't get the support from the so called democratic governments that play such a big role in the economy. Once again, welcome to the free market that allows billionaires act like mobsters.
    War is a racket...
    Dios los vendiga
    Fuck Southerners and northerners, Wake up Raza

    1. fuck southerners and northerners? as in fuck the U.S. and Central America? you just said how theyre food people and then say fuck southerners, thats kinda confusing

    2. @8:19 Norteños (northerners) and Sureños (southerners) are names of actual gangs. Remember not everything translates properly in English. - Sol Prendido

    3. As in the gangs that have destroyed so many lives in the US. Ironically the Salvadoran kids thought it was a cool culture and took it back to their country and have created a nightmare.

    4. 8:19 is just trying to look dumb, but is not that smart.
      11:59 comment wins.
      10:29 you just can't take the hole from an ass, chole,
      never mind the little haters

  5. Go back straighten ur country out. I dont understand central Americans hate the USA but come here and bitch about about being detained.

    1. i dont get the whole complain thing either. it used to be a cat and mouse game .. if you got caught you were deported the same day and everybody knew the rules. All of a sudden they want special treatment while bringing children on this journey. common sense right??? if i was born in a 3 world country i sure as hell would not even think of having children... problem solved

    2. Hate is not the proper word to describe the US. Rather,it's an entitlement for many for the political / economic situation by foreign intrusion.
      All one needs to do is look at what's transpiring in other parts of the world (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria).
      Some would argue Mexico as well!


    3. E42 you are getting better, None of those countries you name has done ANY terrorist activity in the US, specially not the size American private Military/Intelligence have done around the world on top of their own brand sized drug trafficking.

    4. @ 9:57
      Just trying to find reasoning and a bit of rational behind everything. It's never a full and clear picture!

      It's due to the anonymity from readers here and BBs continues reporting and postings that one can begin to put pieces together.

      Enjoy your Sunday.
      FIFA's world cup baby!


    5. E42 the Keyboard/Armchair General - Jaja

    6. @ 2:29
      Post something worth reading than criticizing.

  6. Mexico biggest problem is they let in MS 13 to work for the cartels

    1. this is an ignorant comment, They arent being let in for that purpose. There are a few who are Mexicans who are born and raised in Mexico or deported to Mexico and there are a few that sneak in into the country. The cartels are a bigger problem in Mexico than MS13, If MS13 is a problem in Mexico it would be a local one not a national one.

    2. MS 13 is a totem pole for the current immigration issues in America. There are bigger gangs here in America that are just as ruthless and more vicious.
      So enough with the false stereotype and mask of racism.


    3. 'E' I agree with respect to MS13 and about the racist comment. BUT, gangs are a growing problem in the US after years of decline. and MS 13 although relatively small in numbers, they are rapidly and alarmingly increasing in numbers. I wonder how much the publicity is attracting members.

    4. 6:30 more than the publicity, recruitment is happening because the new Maras are US citizens with nothing to lose and they get used as scarecrows to keep others out and discriminated and to extort a 25 to 30+ billion dollars "for a wall, because wuuuh, the maras" BS.

  7. People going to Mexico for a better life, geez there own country must be horrid then.

    1. Definitely a bit better compared to what little hope within ones country.
      Destabilizion of world countries will become a bigger threat and issue in the near future.
      Economists and global environmentalists project a high volume of immigration.
      Cant feed oneself if water and food is scarce. Added with employment opportunities!


    2. Dr Shrek yes, thier countries are so bad, that they move to Mexico. Even though Mexico is infested with Cartels.

    3. Yep de Shrek, other countries are suffering violence, and they choose to live, in Mexico.


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