In April 2020 the US began immediate deportations of people who try to cross the border illegally without any due process. They are not receiving applications for asylum. Without reference to their nationality, they are being delivered to INM (Instituto Nacional de Migración / Mexican immigration service) or dropped off in Mexico and the INM picks them up off the street and then holds them in detention. This is the context of the incidents where desperate detainees set fires at two detention centers, in Piedras Negras where the INM basically commandeered a migrant house from a group of franciscan sisters because their detention facilities were full, and in the detention center in Tenosique. See the full reports here and here.

Initially the INM was holding them in temporary detention in the north and then sending the migrant by bus to the southern border and holding them there in temporary detention centers. Then then INM would take around 5 or 6 in the morning them in small groups and drop them off in the countryside and tell them to go through Guatemala on their own.

After an incident in Talisman where INM dumped a large group of 300-400 people in the countryside, they changed tactics. These roughly 400 people who were stranded were a mix of people that were released from the Mexican detention centers and those who had been very recently deported from the US and bused from the northern border. After this incident, the INM began distributing them among the different detention centers along the southern border.

Guatemala has closed it borders due to COVID, and the INM is now trying to facilitate their repatriation to Honduras. The photos that have been circulated of a group of 80+ people represent one of the groups the INM was trying to move through Guatemalan territory to Corinto in Honduras with the assistance of the Guatemalan army. You see in this link that they are moving them in vehicles that transport cattle.

There was also the incident of a large group that came from the US on buses organized by the INM. When they got to Villahermosa they were given a “visitor’s card” (the terms of which were really unclear to everyone, evidently) and let go. The card made reference to the individual having to continue with their application with COMAR (the department that deals with refugees). But none of them had actually applied for asylum. Evidently it was a way to just get rid of them.

People have also started coming to La 72 from the northern border on their own, about 40-50 in the last week. For example, yesterday 10 people arrived at La 72, only one from Mexicali who was picked up by border control. The rest had come from the border region on their own because the US has halted all asylum applications and the situation at the northern border is a mess, full of people, no help, no jobs, no assistance whatsoever.  The situation is extremely complicated with COVID-19. La 72 is assisting people who arrive with food and shelter for one night. If they decide to stay, they are quarantined for 14 days apart from the rest of the population. Those who have come to La 72 but do not want to quarantine have been given a ride as far as the border at El Ceibo.

Evidently as of April 17, the border station at El Ceibo will no longer hold deportees. This is an evolving and worsening situation.

Guatemala, in particular the municipality of La Libertad that borders Mexico, is asking the US and Mexico to stop the deportations because they do not have the capacity to accept and move people given the pandemic. It is a crisis situation because there are now about 1000 people in the temporary detention centers in Mexico, 600 of which are going to put on flights today to Honduras. La 72 expects to see a lot more people coming from the north as the situation worsens.