Migrants travel on the train known as "The Beast" in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, 29 September 2023. EFE/ Luis Torres

Thousands of migrants defy operatives on Mexico’s trains to reach the US

Martín Coronado

Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Oct 1 (EFE).- Despite the efforts of the Mexican government and the Ferromex railroad company, thousands of migrants continue to risk their lives by jumping on the country’s trains, especially the notorious “La Bestia” (The Beast), to reach the US border.

In Ciudad Juárez, on the border with Texas, EFE documented the arrival of one of these trains, coming from the city of Torreón, 800 kilometers to the south, with at least 500 migrants, some on the roofs of the train cars and others in the gondolas.

The death trains

This controversy over migrants on Mexican trains began on September 19, when Ferromex suspended 60 freight trains due to the presence of more than 4,000 migrants and “nearly half a dozen unfortunate cases of injuries or deaths” on the tracks or in the cars in the days leading up to the closure.

The canceled trains, which begin their routes in southern Mexico and travel north to connect with a network of freight trains heading to various points on the U.S. border, are collectively known as La Bestia, or the Death Trains, because of the frequency of deaths and serious injuries among migrants who board them illicitly.

Venezuelan Jesús Armando Barroso said in an interview that traveling by train is the only option because Mexican authorities stop migrants if they travel by road, even if they take the bus.

“They always stop us and take us off the buses. They don’t let us get tickets for the buses They want us to walk all the way,” said the migrant, who arrived in Ciudad Juárez after a two-month journey, hoping to cross into the US city of El Paso.

Migrants travel on the train known as “The Beast” in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, 29 September 2023. EFE/ Luis Torres

The Mexican agreement with the US

Barroso said that as he passed through the city of Chihuahua, he saw thousands of people waiting to board a train and said he was frustrated by the possibility that Mexico would return them to their country of origin, as the Mexican government has promised US Customs and Border Protection.

The agreement also includes the rapid deportation of migrants who surrender to US authorities after crossing the Rio Bravo, which marks the border between the two countries and is known as the Rio Grande in the US.

It also includes the “return” of migrants “secured” in Mexico to their countries of origin, after negotiating for those countries to take back their citizens.

“We have fought a lot to reach our goal and we want to reach our goal so that we can continue to fight for our families. Why are you sending us back ifall we want is to pass through?” Barroso added.

“The nights are cold and the days are hot”

Enrique Valenzuela, coordinator of the State Population Council, acknowledged that despite the operations carried out by Ferromex and the state of Chihuahua, groups of people continue to arrive in the city, mostly on the freight train.

However, he said he did not have official data on the number of migrants in Juárez, arguing that it is a very fluctuating figure.

In recent days, migrants arriving aboard “La Bestia” have gone directly to the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande, at Gate 36 of the border fence, where they have stayed for up to five days waiting to be processed by US authorities, according to Jose Gregorio, who arrived on Sunday by train after three months of travelling.

“The nights are cold and the days are hot. And there’s hunger because you can’t get off the train. There are people who come and throw things at us, and this way we can get water or a loaf of bread,” José said.

“We have had to sleep on the street here, but thank God we have always met good-hearted Mexicans who have helped us,” he concluded with tears in his eyes.EFE

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