Temporary refuge for migrants in Mexico also under threat
MEXICO CITY -- For years, conflict has simmered and spiked between residents of a town outside Mexico City and the Central American migrants who have taken refuge there, a stop along their route northward.
Tultitlan has seen thousands of often bedraggled migrants arrive, hoping to hop aboard the freight trains that pass through toward the United States. Many end up staying for days or weeks or longer, and residents often blame them for crimes and vagrancy.
Initially, some residents gave out food and water. But as jobs dried up in the U.S., and the trip north became more precarious, and some travelers simply ran out of money, more and more migrants stayed, and that steadily inflamed local resentment.
The church stepped in, and Roman Catholic priest Christian Rojas opened a shelter for the migrants. But neighbors protested, and this month Rojas was forced to shut it down.
He then set up tents under an overpass near where the migrants hop the train, and there volunteers fed the men, as well as some women and children, who had fled Honduras, El Salvador and other parts of Central America. But now even that reduced operation has been threatened: Residents have vowed to dismantle it if it doesn't disappear by the end of the month.
Rojas doesn't blame the residents, some of whom have plastered anti-migrant banners on their fences, but rather holds the local government responsible for failing to help find a suitable location for a shelter.
"The authorities have to give us an answer," Rojas said by telephone Monday. "We've been waiting, and nothing. I am worried, but what can you do?"
There was no comment Monday from Tultitlan authorities, but officials there in the past have been hostile toward the migrants.
A nearby soup kitchen came under gunfire one recent night, and there have been reports of scuffles between migrants and purported locals. Migrant shelters across Mexico are reported to be full; they offer the only refuge for thousands who endure violent gangs, shakedowns by police and other perils.
-- Tracy Wilkinson
Photo: Central American migrants wait for a northbound freight train north of Mexico City on July 15. Credit: Marco Ugarte / Associated Press