Editors’ note: The following was translated by revcom.us, from Aurora Roja, the blog of the Revolutionary Communist Organization, Mexico.

In the Midst of the Pandemic, U.S./Mexico Onslaught Against Migrants

| revcom.us


For this system, immigrants are “things” to exploit, demonize and discard.

For the communist revolution, they are valuable human beings who will change the world.

“Being here is worse than being kidnapped,” says Aurora, speaking from the Acayúcan migrant holding center, in the state of Veracruz. “Between Chiapas and Veracruz, they kidnapped me, my husband and my two sons (ages 2 and 5).... Our family was able to raise money [to pay the ransom], and they took us back to Chiapas.... Then, migration [officials] seized us.... I couldn’t bear this anymore; being here is worse than being kidnapped.... Being here is the most horrible thing that has happened to me in my life. You can’t do anything, the heat is unbearable. People are crying and screaming, they’re in despair, and you can’t do anything. The children are not eating, but who is going to eat this undercooked, rotten food? Not to mention the stench from the restrooms.... My children have rashes from the sweat and dirt. I can’t go to the toilet because they are overflowing, and the stench overpowers everything.... They can deport us if they like, but let us out of here now. If they are going to kill us, we would at least be seeing the sky, feeling the air, feeling free. But I don’t want to die of sadness and loneliness here—worse than an animal, worse than anything, worse than nothing.”1

Like Aurora, tens of thousands more migrants have been imprisoned in these hellish immigration jails in recent years. Waiting for a one-year permit, on the condition of staying in southern Mexico. Although most have to be deported to the countries from which they had to flee—from government and gang terror, poverty, domestic violence, or the ravages of climate change.

Detained migrants have launched repeated protests and rebellions against subhuman conditions, mistreatment by government agents, hypocrisy and deceit by the federal government. One of the most recent protests was in Tenosique, Tabasco, on March 28. The migrants rose up because of the unbearable conditions and fear of COVID-19 infection. There was a fire. Instead of helping them, the police locked them in and locked the doors while the smoke built up. Finally some young migrants broke the doors down and they were able to escape, but it was too late for Héctor Rolando Barrientos Dardón, a 44-year-old Guatemalan migrant. Héctor died and at least 13 people suffered injuries. He and 41 others were asylum applicants who were to be released two days later. The Mexican government does not accept any responsibility; on the contrary, it arrested four Honduran migrants as alleged culprits.

Despite its discourse, the Mexican government mistreats and deports migrants en masse.

With pepper spray, batons, and devices that give electrical shocks, the National Guard [GN; a national police force set up under the current Mexican government] attacked the migrant caravan that attempted to enter Mexico through Tabasco and Chiapas in January 2020. “There was no repression,”[President] López Obrador lied, repeating his false promises of “4,000 jobs” to the members of the caravan, as well as health and asylum in Mexico. But at border posts, they were informed of the truth: The only job offer would be in the countries from which the migrants have been fleeing. With deceit and repression, they were surrounded, arrested and locked up. Those who escaped were hunted down. In a couple of days, 4,000 migrants were imprisoned in the “holding centers” in Chiapas and Tabasco. For the migrants who entered through Tabasco, the agents promised that they would take them to apply for asylum and that they would live in shelters in freedom. Thus they were able to get the majority to surrender. A Mexican student who was accompanying the caravan (and who was detained for five days in Villahermosa) reported that they were taken to the detention center and when they were asked to remove their shoelaces, “as is usual in prisons, they already knew that they had been deceived.”2

Six days later, in his “mañanera” [early morning press conference] on January 24, Mexican president Manuel Andrés López Obrador [AMLO] spoke about the caravan in this way: “They were offered work, shelter, everything... They rejected it all.”3 All of this is false. There were no job offers in Mexico, and no shelter for the vast majority. Agents from the National Institute of Migration (INM) prevented the migrants from speaking with the Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid (Comar), the only agency that processes asylum applications. They did not allow Comar to enter the five immigration prisons where the caravan detainees were, until finally they allowed them to enter just one, the Tapachula (Siglo XXI) prison. By the time AMLO spoke, they had already deported at least 679 migrants. Only 12 participants in the caravan had managed to apply for asylum and they were the ones who had eluded being detained by the INM agents and arrived by themselves at the Comar office in Tapachula. A deported migrant reported that he was detained for one day, imprisoned in Siglo XXI, and got on the bus to Honduras the next day, without receiving any information about his alleged right to apply for asylum.4

Are you with U.S. imperialism that dominates and sucks the blood of the people, or are you with the migrants who struggle to live and not succumb?

Behind the feint of supposed “humanism” and “respect for human rights,” the AMLO government continues to hunt down, criminalize and deport immigrants en masse, mostly Central Americans from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the so-called “Northern Triangle,” even now in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, in collaboration and under the orders of the United States government. Although a lot of honest people deceived by the promises of a “4th Transformation” [the current AMLO regime’s policies] in Mexico do not want to see it, it is true what Salvador Lacruz, director of a human rights center in Tapachula, Chiapas, called out in 2019: The AMLO government “is imposing in practice the most violent and most repressive scenario towards refugees we have seen, and this is not an understatement, because the Enrique Peña Nieto government [previous Mexican president] was extremely violent.”5

There is no justification for keeping quiet about the most serious crimes ever of the Mexican government against migrants, because you like the discourse or some policies of the government’s new head, AMLO. In the first five months of his government, more than 80,500 people were deported, 54% more than in the same months of the previous year under Enrique Peña Nieto. The National Guard (which is the same as the Mexican army in new uniforms) is devoted to capturing, brutalizing, and deporting migrants. This is the height of hypocrisy when people who at the time very rightly called out the war against migrants by the army and the Federal Police with the Plan Frontera Sur [Southern Border Plan] under Enrique Peña Nieto or the Mérida Initiative under Felipe Calderón [Mexico president, 2006-2012]. Today, just like yesterday, the capitalist state does not focus on fighting organized crime, as they say, but on repressing and deporting migrants, as well as repressing the Mexican people, largely in collusion with the cartels and criminal gangs.

Central American migrants, like Mexican migrants, risk their lives to reach the United States because U.S. imperialism has fucked up the peoples of these oppressed countries even more than it fucks up the people in the United States. This is how this capitalist system based on exploitation and the pursuit of the greatest profit operates, and it cannot function any other way. The big capitalists make huge profits from exploiting migrants in the United States, for example, in agriculture or in large meatpacking plants, where the migrants have now been forced to work without adequate protection against COVID-19, resulting in the increase of unnecessary deaths. And they make even greater profits by super-exploiting people in the countries of origin of these migrants, where the inequalities generated by the very operation of the world system compel people to work for a pittance, if and when they can find work. When they can’t, more and more people are driven or forced to enter the international “business” of drugs and organized crime in general, with the active participation of rulers and big “legal” capitalists.

As Carlos, a Honduran migrant, recounts, “I am traveling to help my grandmother live a better life. I am from Tegus [Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras]. There aren’t many opportunities there if you aren’t with the gangs, and I don’t want to enter into that world. I want to do things right.... Once you join the gangs, you can’t leave. The gangs killed my father when I was 7 years old, an uncle when I was 6 and a cousin when I was 5. People hardly know their family because of this.”6 Or what a psychologist in El Salvador says, “We have repeated cases of adolescent rape by gang members. The girls are constantly being watched by them.... Some manage to escape with their family, although we know of cases where the gangs have found them and have threatened them. Sometimes, the gangs leave dismembered corpses to intimidate those who shelter families who have been displaced.”7

Migrants flee from this hell of poverty, hunger and ruthless violence that has been generated by the very functioning of the capitalist-imperialist system. Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are dominated and looted by the U.S. imperialists. They rob the wealth created by the workers, distort the economy, ruin the peasants, and destroy the environment. The United States supports and imposes corrupt presidents, sponsors coups d’etat against presidents who get in its way, arms and funds the armed forces and police, and sponsors counterrevolutionary wars to maintain its domination. And then when people flee from all that hell, they are vilified and repressed by representatives of the same system that created that hell in the first place.

Capitalism-imperialism has generated a global refugee crisis

This is not only the situation in the Americas: Capitalism-imperialism has generated a world crisis of 70.8 million refugees, expelled from their homes, barely surviving in refuge camps, or facing clubs and bullets, walls, concentration camps, and deportation when trying to reach imperialist countries like the United States, various European countries, etc. The devastation of their home countries has various causes—reactionary wars, destruction of the environment and global warming, lack of employment, and the growth of the bane of organized crime—but they are rooted in the “normal” functioning of this system.

Something basic is that capitalists employ and exploit migrants (as well as workers in general) as long as they can profit from them, and they unleash their repressive forces to contain, control and repress everyone else, who they consider “excess population,” because it is not profitable to put them to work. It is not simply that they are motherfuckers: This is how this system functions. If the capitalists do not make a profit, they soon go bankrupt and others take their place. It is an absurd and criminal system: There are many people (even in the imperialist countries, not to mention the oppressed countries) who lack decent housing and there are many people who lack work who could build housing. But this is not done, because there is no profit in building good houses for poor people who cannot afford them. The same applies with malnutrition, clothing, electronic devices, and everything else that is necessary for the physical and cultural well-being of people.

The future socialist society will welcome all migrants who want to contribute to building a new and much better world

It’s absurd that so much completely unnecessary suffering continues. To end this, a revolution is needed, this system governed by the profits of a few needs to be overthrown, the main means of production—the factories, machines, means of transportation, etc. of the big companies—need to be transformed into the property of all the people, to be able to collectively work them, with a planned economy governed not by profits but by the needs of the people and the advance of the revolution on the road to finally emancipate all of humanity.

Socialist society will welcome migrants in the common effort to build a new and much better world. There will be nothing to prevent people who can work from joining efforts to build and produce what is needed. There will be much to do and everyone’s participation and creativity will be unleashed to build a new society, giving priority to overcoming the barbarous inequalities and injustices inherited from capitalism and imperialist domination. The principles and methods set forth by Bob Avakian’s new communism will be applied. For example: This will have “the orientation... to welcome immigrants from all over the world who have a sincere desire to contribute to the goals and objectives of this Republic”8 and citizenship will be granted to all those who so desire it (with the exception of counter-revolutionary leaders or people convicted of war crimes or crimes against humanity).

Racist attacks by the fascist Trump/Pence regime in collaboration with the Mexican government

Without such a revolution, the situation will continue to get worse. The United States government has always persecuted migrants as if they were animals, but this is greatly increased by the fascist Trump/Pence regime. They launch xenophobic and racist attacks against immigrants as the spearhead of their onslaught against humanity in general, which could reach genocidal dimensions. Thousands of underage migrants were separated from their parents in detention in the U.S. in 2017-2018. In 2019, more than 80,000 migrants were imprisoned, packed into cages and “hieleras” (rooms with freezing temperatures), sleeping on concrete floors and suffering physical abuse and racist insults. Before the coronavirus pandemic, at least 37 migrants died9 detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) under the Trump presidency, and armed attacks by white supremacists, encouraged by this regime, are intensifying, such as the massacre of 22 people, mainly Mexicans or Americans of Mexican origin, in El Paso, Texas on August 3, 2019.

In December 2019, they imposed the return to Mexico of the Central American immigrants applying for asylum in the U.S., to wait for the settlement of their cases, with the so-called “Migrant Protection Protocols,” also known as the “Remain in Mexico Policy.” Even before this, on June 7, 2019, the Mexican government formally accepted that the United States get rid of these migrants as if they were garbage. In that year, they dumped 60,000 people on the Mexican side of the border, where thousands have to live in camps outdoors and many are kidnapped, enslaved, or even killed by criminal gangs with the tolerance or collaboration of the police and the National Guard (GN). At the same time, the Mexican government launched the massive deployment of the GN to prevent migrants from crossing into the United States and also to serve as a “border patrol” for the United States on the southern border with Guatemala.

To make matters worse, the Mexican repressive forces have threatened the shelters and Doctors Without Borders (the only ones that care for the health of migrants on the northern border), and have detained, beaten, robbed, and deported migrants at the entrances of these shelters.10

The Trump/Pence fascist regime takes advantage of the pandemic to intensify the exploitation and expulsion of migrants with the full collaboration of the AMLO government

The COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. and then in Mexico is an enormous threat to migrants. In the U.S., ICE continues the raids and deportations in the midst of the pandemic, and almost all due process rights for migrants have been suspended: Suspension of hearings, “express” deportations at the border, suspension of all applications for permanent residence, and even lack of water, soap, face masks, and “social distancing” in the concentration camps. Immigrants who work in agriculture, food processing plants, the health sector, and other services considered essential are now called “essential workers,” but they do not give documents to the undocumented, they force them to work with high risk of contagion, without protective measures, or even when they are sick.

Protests and hunger strikes of detained migrants, as well as activists and revolutionaries from outside, demand their release due to the danger of contagion and death among those incarcerated. So far ICE has only released a few hundred of the 32,000 detained migrants and the number of deaths increases daily. As of April 10, 61 migrants had died from COVID-19 in ICE custody.

The U.S. is also deporting migrants already infected with COVID-19. At a shelter in Nuevo Laredo, 15 migrants were infected by a sick migrant deported from Houston, Texas. The Guatemalan government closed its borders after the arrival of a U.S. plane in which at least half of the migrants on board were infected. Christie Thornton, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, rightly tweeted, “The United States government knowingly and actively spreads the virus to Central America through deportations.

From March 21 to April 10, the U.S. deported 10,000 migrants to Mexico. The Mexican Migra, in turn, threw out thousands of Central Americans on the southern Mexican border and from there to their countries of origin. Before negotiating deportations despite the closed borders of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, the INM abandoned them to their fate in the southern Mexican states of Tabasco or Chiapas, without lodging, work, money, or protection against the coronavirus. Non-governmental shelters try to help, but several of them have had to close in the face of the avalanche of deported people, due to lack of space and resources to care for them.

The INM “releases” detainees in order to deport them

Since March, protests and rebellions of migrants in detention centers in Mexico demanded their release so as to not die of COVID-19. Organizations defending migrants filed for a protective injunction and on April 18, a judge ordered the release of all “vulnerable” migrants detained by the INM, as well as guarantees for the regularization of their documents and health in Mexico. A week later, the Ministry of the Interior released a statement announcing that they had almost completely emptied the detention centers, “freeing” 3,653 people, without saying where they ended up. But at the end of the statement it’s mentioned, as if it were just other unrelated information, that “the return by land to Guatemala and air to Honduras and El Salvador of 3,653 citizens from those countries was successfully carried out.” The exact number of people “freed”!

With world-class hypocrisy, the Ministry of the Interior praises itself for “fully guaranteeing human rights” for these migrants. Thus it tries to hide the criminal fact that it did not take any action to protect or care for them, but instead deported them without any health check, back to the desperate situation from which they fled, in order to get rid of the “problem.” No one should be fooled by its honeyed words: “migrant holding centers” are actually unhealthy and dismal prisons, “assisted return” is forced deportation, “rescue” means arbitrary and often violent detention. They are guardians of the capitalist social order, the system that sacrifices the lives of millions to maintain itself and accumulate more capital.

Revolutionary Communist Organization, Mexico

May 11, 2020


1. Aurora, a Nicaraguan migrant, recounted this as she was treated by Doctors Without Borders at the holding center. “No Way Out: The humanitarian crisis for migrants and asylum seekers trapped between the United States, Mexico and the Northern Triangle of Central America,”Doctors Without Borders Report, pp. 32-33, February 2020. [back]

2. Quoted in “México ofrece refugio, pero impide que migrantes hablen con la institución que regula el asilo” [Mexico offers refuge, but prevents migrants from speaking with the institution that regulates asylum], Alberto Pradilla, Animal Político, January 25, 2020. [back]

3. Ibid. [back]

4. Ibid. [back]

5. Quoted from Process, in our flyer “We Will NOT Obey the Orders of the Fascist Trump Regime!”, June 29, 2019. [back]

6. Doctors Without Borders Report, op. cit., p. 11. [back]

7. Ibid., p. 12. [back]

8. Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, page 62, Bob Avakian, RCP Publications, 2010. Downloadable at revcom.us. This draft Constitution is for a future socialist society in the territory that is now the United States, but many of its principles have universal application and offer us a very realistic and inspiring vision of the very different world that is possible. [back]

9. “Durante mandato de Trump han muerto 37 indocumentados en centros de detención” [During Trump administration, 37 undocumented migrants have died in detention centres], EFE News, Tucson, Arizona, April 3, 2020. [back]

10. For example, the National Guard threatened to enter to check migrants in two shelters in Saltillo, Coahuila and Agua Prieta, Sonora, in June and July 2019 (in blatant violation of the Mexican Migration Law). They beat the people who were outside against the gate of the Casa del Migrante in Saltillo where they kept up the harassment for four days. Alberto Xicoténcatl, director of the Casa del Migrante, stated that they also harassed the shelters in Tijuana, Baja California and Tenosique, Tabasco, remarking that “migrants are being criminalized.” [back]

Protest on May 1, 2020, International Workers Day. The poster says: “Strike for the rights of the migrants.”

Protest demanding the release of migrants at the Siglo XXI Migrant Holding Center in Chiapas. The banner says: “Free the emigrants!!”

Migrants from the January 2020 caravan. (Photo: CNN)

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