CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock met up with a group of organized volunteers dedicated to helping them on their journey – and filed this report from Veracruz, Mexico.
In the midday heat of Mexico’s Gulf Coast, a group of women waits for a train. But this isn’t just any train, nor is this just any group of women. For two decades, Las Patronas, or The Bosses, have been supplying vital provisions to Central American migrants, as they hitch rides on freight trains heading north towards the US border. Francisco Carranza is one such migrant, who sought shelter with the organization.
“It’s a very special place, because we are treated well here no matter where we come from.,” says Francisco Carranza, a migrant from Honduras. “The journey to the US border is very dangerous for us, and places of refuge are very valuable.”
Today, the Central American migrants, who make an estimated half a million illegal US border crossing attempts every year, have become a political target of the United States’ current administration. President Donald Trump has often associated migrants with MS13, the Mara Salvatrucha criminal gang. But the migrants here say it’s organized crime that they are trying to escape.
JOSE REYES HONDURAN MIGRANT “In my country, if you have a business, you must pay what’s known as the ‘war tax’, and if you refuse, they kill you and your family. The police have no authority. The gangs have taken total control of our country.”
The Patronas say they did see a drop in migrant numbers following Trump’s election, and the U.S. reported a sharp drop in border arrests last year – crediting the toughened policy as an effective deterrent. But these days, the Patronas say they’re seeing more migrants than ever – willing to risk everything for a better life.
BERNARDA ROMERO LAS PATRONAS FOUNDING MEMBER “They say Trump wants to put a wall up, but that won’t stop people crossing. These people aren’t leaving their countries for fun, they are leaving because they are desperate, they’re hungry, they’re threatened, and they don’t have a choice. People will always migrate, you can’t stop that.”
ALASDAIR BAVERSTOCK VERACURZ, MEXICO