"Human trafficking is modern-day slavery that affects mainly women and children", said Catholic Bishop Raúl Vera Lopez of Saltillo, the capital of the Mexican state of Coahila. He denounced that the number of people who are victims of human trafficking and exploitation is on the rise while Mexican authorities do little about it. This comes while thousands of Central American migrants, fearful of narcotics-fuelled violence, lackadaisical government, and poverty continue to seek refuge in the United States. Relying on smugglers, migrants cross the border into the U.S. while many fall victim to violent smugglers and drug gangs, or succumb to the heat of the desert.
"Migrants are the sector that suffers the most in Coahuila, and they are part of the population who are completely unprotected." said Bishop Vera López on August 19. He noted that the problem of human trafficking stems from the migration of people (especially El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) who are seeking a better life or reunion with family members in the U.S.
"Those who are passing are the first victims of organized crime," reiterated the Catholic bishop, "there are those who extort money, those who force them to commit illegal activities, and some even prevent them from crossing the border." Bishop Vera Lopez encouraged migrants to report human rights abuses, even while he is aware of their fear of reprisals.
Amalia Dolores García Medina, of Mexico’s leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), met with migrants from Central America in July, in the company of Fr. Alejandro Solalinde – a Catholic priest and activist who operates a shelter for migrants headed towards the United States. She told the meeting that Mexican law does not criminalize the undocumented and that there is no reason to persecute or hassle migrant workers. She averred that Mexico is a nation of migrants, alluding to the 33 million persons of Mexican origin living in the U.S. and the more than 12 million immigrants living in Mexico.
García Medina and Solalinde heard the testimony of various Central American immigrants who complained of human rights violations committed by Mexico’s immigration authorities, law enforcement, and criminal organizations. A Nicaraguan migrant, Elvis Ariel Garay, demanded just treatment for his fellow immigrants from Central America, saying “We are human beings, just like you Mexicans.” García Medina, who presides over the Committee on Migration Issues in Mexico’s congress, promised that these offenders will be brought to justice. A former communist, García Medina once served as the governor of Zacatecas State.
Father Solalinde praised the migrants for their courage in testifying to their abuse at the hands of Mexican law enforcement and criminals. According to a Latin American human rights advocacy group, almost 1.2 million persons are subjected to human trafficking in Mexico. This figure, calculated in 2010, places Mexico in fifth place in the region for the illegal trade.
On the other side of the border, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents arrested two Central American immigrants on August 11 who were later discovered to be sex offenders with U.S. criminal records. In a group of six illegal immigrants, the CBP discovered 59-year old Marcelino Argueta-Amaya from El Salvador. Argueta-Amaya has two prior arrests for sexual offenses. In 1987, a Los Angeles court convicted him for child molestation and sentenced him to three years of probation. In 1996, he was arrested in California for indecent exposure. More than a decade later, in 2004, he was arrested and deported to El Salvador. In another arrest, CBP agents arrested Franklin Alexander Rodriguez-Diaz, 36, an illegal immigrant from Honduras. An immigration judge ordered his removal in 1999, due to his string of offenses, including child rape. He was deported to Honduras in 2004. Both Argueta-Amaya and Rodriguez-Diaz will face charges of illegal re-entry. Their prior orders for deportation will be reinstated.
CBP said that agents near Del Rio, Texas — less than an hour north of Eagle Pass — have arrested 26 convicted sex offenders so far in the 2014 fiscal year.