Photo: African migrants trapped in Tapachula clash with military police
By Jakob Stein
On August 27, video surfaced of African migrants detained in the Chiapas town of Tapachula fighting back against the Mexican Military Police, who have been keeping them interned in “21st Century Migrant Station,” a detention center with extremely poor conditions. The clashes broke out as detainees attempted to break through police barriers in response to mistreatment and imprisonment at the facility.
Mexican authorities have been increasing repression toward migrant caravans passing through the country from Central America ever since US President Donald Trump threatened to impose a 5% import tax. Since then, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has restricted migrants’ ability to move freely through Mexico by detaining them, increasing deportations, and deploying the National Guard to secure the southern border with Guatemala.
Thousands of African migrants have been making the dangerous journey to the US and Canada by passing through Central America but are now finding themselves trapped in southern Mexico. Detention numbers have tripled throughout 2019, straining the already overcrowded centers. Unsanitary conditions, lack of medical care, and bad food have caused several cases of disease. Detainees have been held for weeks longer than the 15-day maximum claimed by Mexican authorities (in some cases without any information on the reason for their detention) and forced to sign documents in languages they do not speak.
In response to the abuses faced by African migrants, inmates of the Tapachula camp founded the Association of African Migrants and issued a press release. In it they declared that they are fleeing the effects of imperialism, referring to their home countries as “impoverished and subordinate to Western powers,” and call for an end to their oppression and freedom of movement.
The US has used its imperialist domination of Mexico to mitigate the consequences of its plunder of Africa. By threatening economic measures, the US leverages its position as the sole hegemonic imperialist superpower to force the Mexican government to do its dirty work of deporting and detaining migrants before they reach the US border. Despite some hailing him as a “progressive” president, Obrador shows his true colors as a reactionary and lackey of US imperialism by cracking down on migrants and forcing them to stay in squalid, overcrowded detention centers with little to no legal recourse.
As the crises caused by imperialism continue to grow and deepen, the global problem of forced migration and displacement will only get worse. Only with the complete destruction of imperialism, principally US imperialism, can the world be freed from the misery that pushes people to flee their homes and seek refuge elsewhere.