Today Amnesty International released The Invisibles, a series of four short documentaries about the wretched journey thousands of Central Americans make traveling across Mexico in an attempt to reach the U.S. These migrants carry with them the hope of a new life in the U.S. and an escape from the grinding poverty and insecurity back home.
In its report with the same name, released in April, Amnesty documented that thousands of these migrants confront beatings, abduction, rape and even murder along their journey to the U.S., their lives and deaths largely hidden from view.
While many of their stories will never be told, The Invisibles provides a small look into the reasons people leave their homes and the desperate measures they take in attempting to provide for their families. Sometimes aware of the risks, mothers and fathers keep going because no other avenue for livelihood exists.
Criminal gangs are responsible for the vast majority of crimes against these migrants, but there is evidence that officials at various levels are complicit in the crimes.
In 2008 I met a woman who provides temporary shelter and humanitarian assistance to migrants in danger. Due to the food, shelter and care she provided, she was charged with smuggling migrants and sentenced to years in jail. Undeterred, after release from jail she continues to provide care to migrants. The Catholic Church runs a chain of shelters providing temporary relief to some of the exhausted, abused and injured. The assistance these human rights defenders provide to can provoke attacks and harassment.
After surviving the journey across Mexico, Central American migrants arrive in the U.S. only to be detained in jails, criminalized by local, state and federal law, and exploited by employers who take advantage of their vulnerability by subjecting workers to dangerous conditions and woefully inadequate wages labor without rights.
Human rights abuses against Mexican migrants in the U.S. attract a great deal of public concern, and rightly so. Public outrage over the crisis facing migrants in Mexico, on the other hand, has been much more muted. While the Mexican government has recently taken some steps to begin protecting the human rights of migrants, much more must be done to bring criminal and state offenders to account for their crimes and to safeguard the journey of migrants along the way.