Federal authorities have recently been allowing migrant groups to walk for hours and tire under sweltering heat before swooping in to detain them. Before dawn Wednesday, officials surprised migrants sheltering from the rain in in the nearby town of Mapastepec, chasing them between houses and businesses.
The enforcement efforts in Chiapas state follow an encounter over the weekend when media outlets, including The Associated Press filmed immigration agents kicking a migrant who was already on the ground. Mexican officials announced Tuesday that two agents involved had been suspended.
Mexican officials have not reported how many migrants have been detained in these operations or said where they have been taken.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in his third state of the nation address Wednesday that “the human rights of migrants have not been violated.”
“The exceptional case from days ago, in which two immigration officials kicked a Haitian citizen, was attended to that same day and they were relieved of their duties and turned over to the corresponding internal control organ,” he said.
The majority of the migrants departing Tapachula in groups in recent days have been Haitian, though Cubans and Central Americans have also been present. The pressure has been building for weeks in Tapachula, where the few shelters are at capacity and migrants seeking asylum have grown frustrated at the slow advance of their cases.
The government has made clear it intends to contain migrants in southern Mexico. Last Friday, Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said the main objective of the armed forces and National Guard is “to detain all migration” and “cover the northern border, the southern border with soldiers.”
Under criticism from human rights groups and international organizations, Mexico’s National Immigration Institute said Wednesday it was looking to work with United Nations agencies and the Roman Catholic Church “to establish a humanitarian camp in the state of Chiapas where the Haitian migrant population can receive attention.”