Migrant shelter shuts its doors amid discord, crushing demand

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Migrants from Central America wait in line for their breakfast at the St. Juan Diego migrant shelter in Tultitlan, Mexico, Jan. 20. The shelter, which marks its third anniversary Jan. 27, has provided food, bedding, clothing and medical check-ups to near ly 200,000 migrants making their way to the United States. (CNS photo/Tomas Bravo, Reuters)

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — A Catholic-run shelter serving the masses of migrants stealing rides on trains passing through the rail yards north of Mexico City closed its doors July 9 after enduring endless quarrels with its neighbors.

Local media reported that the St. Juan Diego shelter stopped accepting migrants after a meeting with neighbors, who earlier had closed the facility in a symbolic gesture and posted signs advising migrants to move along. The newspaper Reforma, citing police reports, said that a conflict among neighbors, shelter operators and migrants outside of the facility came prior to the closure.

Shelter director Father Alexander Rojas told the newspaper that he was acting on the instructions of his superior, Bishop Guillermo Ortiz Mondragon of Cuautitlan.

It is uncertain how long the facility will remain closed. Reforma said the neighbors had asked for a meeting with Bishop Ortiz and promised to block any migrants from entering their street, which dead ends at the rail yards.

Calls to the St. Juan Diego shelter went unanswered. Attempts to reach a representative from the bishops’ human mobility ministry were unsuccessful.

The closure ended an escalating conflict with neighbors but leaves hundreds of undocumented Central Americans without a place to find assistance on a long leg of their northbound journeys across central Mexico.

It highlighted again the difficulties and inhospitable situations awaiting the migrants transiting Mexico, where they commonly face crimes such as robbery, rape and kidnap.

The shelter opened in 2007, but strife started with the neighbors in 2010 as the facility was unable to deal with a crushing demand of migrants, many of whom would end up sleeping in the street.

Shelter officials began limiting stays to just one night because of the demand.

Reforma reported 50 migrants had been staying at the shelter at the time the closure was announced.

Northbound migration on the trains has been slowed in recent weeks because of damage to railroad infrastructure caused by Hurricane Carlotta in Oaxaca state. Because few trains are headed north, migrants have been stranded across southern Mexico, said Father Heyman Vazquez Medina, director of a shelter in neighboring Chiapas state.

Father Vazquez estimated at least 800 migrants were stranded at his shelter but added that local parishes in the municipality of Arriaga were pitching in to help.

The railway operator, Ferrocarril del Sureste, estimates repairs will be completed by July 17, it said in a press release.

Shelter operators have said migrants from Central America still head north in large numbers, despite risks along the route from criminal gangs and crooked public officials.

Mexico’s National Immigration Institute said in a July 5 statement it was offering humanitarian aid to stranded migrants in four southern states. An immigration director, however, told the news service Notimex that the migrants were ineligible to stay in Mexico and would be returned to their countries of origin.

— By David Agren, Catholic News Service 

1 COMMENT

  1. “An immigration director, however, told the news service Notimex that the migrants were ineligible to stay in Mexico and would be returned to their countries of origin.” WHAT? Mexico doesn’t want them either? WOW!

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