MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A Mexican migrant shelter is raising concern over what it said was an unauthorized attempt by Mexico’s National Guard to enter the facility and question migrants.
Migrants board a vehicle of the National Migration Institute (INM) after they were stopped from crossing illegally into El Paso, Texas, United States, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Several military-type vehicles pulled up on Sunday night at Attention Center for the Migrant Exodus (CAME), a shelter in Agua Prieta across the border from Douglas, Arizona, shelter director Adalberto Ramos told Reuters late on Tuesday.
Ramos said that a man wearing a National Guard armband demanded to enter the shelter and asked questions about its operations and the people inside.
“He threatened me, he said, ‘You know that we can come inside and check people,’” Ramos added. “The part that worries us is the intimidation, that they insisted on wanting to enter.”
His account was supported by the Northern Zone Network of human rights centers, made up of about 30 groups, which issued a statement expressing concern over the confrontation.
Shelter staff told the man that the premises were private and that he would need a government order to be able to enter, according to the Northern Zone Network statement.
Mexican authorities have typically respected shelters as safe havens for migrants and not conducted raids inside their perimeter.
Mexico’s security ministry, which oversees the National Guard, did not respond to requests for comment. The National Guard was formed this year.
As part of an agreement with the United States to use tougher measures to stop illegal migration, Mexico last week said it sent between 14,000 and 15,000 National Guard and military members to the northern border.
CAME, founded 19 years ago, has traditionally provided food and lodging to Central American migrants passing through Mexico to the United States.
In photos a member of CAME provided to Reuters, several armed men wearing camouflage stand outside the shelter’s entrance. On one, an arm-band emblazoned with “GN,” Spanish for National Guard, is clearly visible.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday that the National Guard may have committed “excesses” in migration control duties, when asked about photographs of the National Guard appearing to catch Central American and Cuban women in Ciudad Juarez, which borders El Paso, Texas.
Lopez Obrador added that the National Guard had been instructed to respect human rights.
Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City, Additional reporting by Kristina Cooke in San Francisco, Writing by Daina Beth Solomon