In recent months, at least 3,000 immigrants have been sent back to towns along the Mexican border between Tamaulipas and Texas, one of the country’s most dangerous areas. What they have faced there defies the imagination. The city of Nuevo Laredo is a well-known hotbed of extortion and kidnapping. Immigrants make easy targets. “These people have been thrown into the lion’s den,” local journalist Daniel Rosas told me recently.
According to Rosas, President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” program has been particularly harmful, placing thousands of immigrants in imminent danger. “If even us locals are going through a very difficult time dealing with violence here, just imagine what life is like for an immigrant who doesn’t have a home and doesn’t know anyone. This place is completely unsafe,” Rosas told me. In the city of Nuevo Laredo, Rosas described a Dantean scene in which people working for cartels are tasked with identifying and abducting immigrants, who are then taken away to safehouses where they are held for ransom.
“In Tamaulipas, migrants are the most vulnerable. They suffer every kind of abuse imaginable,” he told me. Rosas seemed particularly worried for women and children in Tamaulipas. “They are completely defenseless,” Rosas told me. “When they were waiting and trying to rest under the bridge, there were kids sleeping on cardboard, without any help. They live through sheer horror,” he said.
This nightmare is the predictable result of recent actions by governments on both sides of the border. Three months ago, faced with Trump’s tariff blackmail, Mexico’s government capitulated and agreed to a series of unprecedented measures to reduce the flow of Central American immigrants reaching the United States. Terrified by the possibility of a trade war, President Andres Manuel López Obrador’s administration deployed thousands of troops along Mexico’s southern border, gave control of the country’s immigration authority to an expert in incarceration and enforcement, and pledged full cooperation with some of Trump’s more controversial immigration policies. As part of the deal, Mexican government officials agreed to return to Washington every few months with evidence of results, a recurrent humiliating pilgrimage in search of Trump’s approval and a renewed deferral of the looming tariff threat.
By León Krauze for SLATE.COM
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