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Human Rights in Transit: Migrant Defenders Speak on Work in Mexico

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Author: Francisco Gonzalez

Unprecedented numbers of young migrants arriving at the U.S. southern border have caught the attention of U.S. media and authorities. In just the last nine months, 52,000 unaccompanied minors, as well as 39,000 women with children, mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, have been apprehended at the border, and that number is predicted to keep growing. This “crisis” has sparked an important conversation about what is going on in their home countries that would spur so many people to risk the dangerous journey north.

The Latin America Working Group was honored to host a delegation of two migrant rights defenders from Mexico to call attention to the plight of migrants in their home countries as well as along the migrant route through Mexico. Particularly in the Northern Triangle countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), high levels of gang and domestic violence, poverty, and lack of economic opportunity are driving more youth and women with young children to migrate. In their journey through Mexico these migrants are often only met with more abuse, violence, and corruption.

Sister Leticia Gutiérrez is the Director for the Scalibrinian Mission for Migrants and Refugees (Scalabrinianas: Misión para Migrantes y Refugiados, SMR) in Mexico, which works extensively with migrants who have been the victims of abuse in Mexico. Juan José Villagomez works at the migrant shelter in Saltillo, Mexico (Casa del Migrante de Saltillo). During their visit to Washington, DC, they met with policymakers and NGOs to share testimonies of the abuse and extortion faced by migrants in Mexico, and their experience with the recent surge of children and women.

In the following interviews, Sister Leticia and Juan Jose describe some of the reasons people are migrating from Central America, and the perils they face in Mexico.

Interview with Sister Leticia Gutiérrez:
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Spanish and English transcripts are available here.

Interview with Juan José Villagomez:
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Spanish and English transcripts are available here.