“Todo pasa y no pasa nada,” said Rev. Prisciliano Pereza, using a phrase that roughly translates as “Things happen but nothing gets done” to decry what he and a group of fellow migrant advocates say is near-complete impunity for human rights abuses of migrants in the Mexican state of Sonora.
“(Migrants) won’t even report crimes because no one will listen to them, and the last thing they want are more problems,” said Pereza, director of a migrant assistance organization in Altar, Sonora, which is part of the Red Migrante Sonora, or the Sonora Migrant Network.
During a press conference Thursday morning at the Nogales, Sonora art museum, the group presented a report called “Y la impunidad continua,” or “And the Impunity Continues,” which details abuses experienced by migrants and deported people who arrive at shelters in the Sonoran cities of Nogales, Altar, Caborca and Agua Prieta on a daily basis, and the lack of recourse victims have to bring their abusers to justice.
U.S.-bound migrants, who are often fleeing violence, poverty and persecution at home, are vulnerable not only because of their desperation but also because they often have to rely on others to reach and cross the border, a fact that can easily lead to exploitation, said Sister Maria Engracia Robles Robles of the Ambos Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative.
“The deported and journeying migrant has become a dollar sign, not only taken advantage of by criminals, but by Mexican citizens and some authorities,” she said.
Migrants who make their way to northern Sonora are regularly robbed, extorted, kidnapped and tortured, said Perla Del Angel, who works with migrants in Agua Prieta. And the report offers first-hand accounts of migrants who have been beaten, burned, starved and raped by human traffickers, law enforcement officials or gangs.
But while these abuses are commonplace, little is done by federal, state or local governments to address the problem, allowing abusers to go free, while migrants remain an easy target for exploitation, she said.
“They are not even treated as human beings,” she said, describing how authorities routinely set aside complaints of abuse or even threaten migrants who dare to come forward.
Part of that problem stems from border militarization and immigration policy in the United States, which has created a flow of people attempting to cross the border illegally and contributing to the costly, dangerous and violent nature of the journey, according to the report. However, Red Migrante Sonora focused on the injustices that not only take place in Sonora, but are perpetuated by local, state and federal authorities who are either complicit in abuse of migrants or do not seriously investigate and prosecute those crimes.
“We excuse ourselves,” Pereza said. “But we have also experienced this impunity that’s so detrimental to our society.”
To address that impunity, the report suggests six steps that can be taken, including honest and vigorous defense for migrants by authorities; the implementation of security measures in areas identified as especially dangerous for migrants; the creation of secure routes for migrants; human rights workshops for law enforcement and social service organizations; and better communication and follow-through from all levels of government in protecting the rights of migrants and prosecuting those who abuse them.
“At the moment, our goal is to make this reality visible,” Robles said of the latest report, a follow-up to information the Red Migrante Sonora released in 2015.
And while the number of deportations and migrants crossing the border has decreased in recent years and months, the level of abuse continues to increase, Robles said.
“There hasn’t been any improvement. On the contrary, things have gotten worse,” she said.
“It’s an inverse function ... the fewer the migrants, the greater the exploitation.”