TAPACHULA, MEXICO (AP) – For weeks, this city near Mexico’s southern border has been roiled by near daily protests by migrants frustrated over the lengthy wait for documents from Mexican authorities that would allow them to continue travelling north.
On Friday, one of those protests appeared to pay off. About 150 migrants shouting outside a military base, where President Andrés Manuel López Obrador gave his daily news conference, were told they would receive humanitarian visas before the day’s end.
That came a day after immigration authorities said they had given similar documents to some 800 migrants in the city ahead of the president’s visit.
Migrants from Central America, as well as Venezuela, Cuba and other nations walked to the base. “We don’t want to stay here in Mexico,” said Roberto Báez Castillo of Cuba.
“The final destination is to continue to the United States. So they have no right to hold us here, to practically have us kidnapped because they can’t give us a pass or humanitarian visa.
“Since no one has helped us, we want the president to give us a solution, pull us out of this pit,” Báez said. A short time later, a high-ranking immigration official appeared to do just that.
A director general for an agency within the National Immigration Institute Héctor Martínez Castuera came out of the base and said officials would make a list of everyone with name, age, nationality and he promised to keep families together.
“Today we’ll be giving you the cards,” he said. The migrants expressed concern, some saying that they had received such papers before, but when they travelled north, officials in other parts of the country detained them and sent them south again.
López Obrador didn’t directly address the migrants, but he repeated his desire to expand Mexican social initiatives to reduce the economic pressure to migrate.
Migrants enduring lengthy waits for asylum requests or other attempts to regularise their status have attempted to walk out of Tapachula en masse only to be stopped later by authorities. They complain that there are few work opportunities in the southern city and with many facing debts incurred to get this far, they can’t afford to be idle.