MEXICO CITY – A Mexican-American who battles for the rights of immigrants in the United States said he was arrested after taking a photo of Mexican navy personnel beating a group of undocumented Central American migrants.
Irineo Mújica told the story and showed the photographs during a press conference with members of various Mexican organizations who helped him file a criminal complaint against the INM immigration agency for illegally detaining and threatening the activist.
Mújica, a 37-year-old U.S. citizen, works with immigrants rights groups in Minnesota. He said he boarded a train on March 31 in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca to carry out a report for the Latino Communications Network on the dangers Central American migrants face during their journey across Mexico to the United States.
Near the village of Las Palmas, Mújica said he saw 50 Mexican navy personnel stop the train and captured with his camera how some members of a group of 800 migrants who jumped off the vehicle in their attempt to flee were beaten.
The navy personnel “tried to take my camera away,” said the activist, who, after witnessing the incident, was arrested and held for several hours on the accusation that he was a trafficker conducting the migrants across Mexico.
“I feel sadness and shame as a Mexican,” said Mújica, who will return to the United States in two weeks.
The navy and the INM announced last month that they will launch an investigation to determine those responsible for the “presumed abuse committed against undocumented migrants.”
Both institutions acknowledged their participation in the operation in question but denied “categorically having any formal knowledge to date of any type of human rights violation.”
The spokesman for the group Foro Migraciones,Marta Villarreal, who attended Thursday’s press conference, said that “the navy, the army, the municipal police and even the private police … continually harass immigrants.”
“Migrants in Mexico are the victims of kidnapping, extortion, robbery, people trafficking and labor exploitation,” she said.
According to official figures, some 300,000 undocumented migrants from Central America cross the border into Mexico each year, the majority traversing the country aboard cargo trains in their attempt to reach the United States.