Mexican troops shown on tape illegally raiding women’s shelter
Mexican National Guard troops were caught on tape earlier this month trying to force their way into a Tijuana migrant shelter during a nighttime raid.
Humanitarian workers are denouncing the incident as an illegal and warrantless search targeting some of Tijuana’s most vulnerable migrant populations.
The illegal search took place at the Border Line Crisis Center around midnight on Oct. 11. The shelter’s security cameras show uniformed soldiers armed with bulletproof vests and long rifles trying to force their way inside.
“They were demanding the female residents, it’s only women and children here, to open up the shelter and let them in,” said Nicole Ramos, the Border Rights Project Director for Al Otro Lado, a nonprofit that hosts legal clinics at Border Line Crisis Center.
In the video recording, National Guard troops, along with personnel from Mexico’s National Institute of Migration, can be heard accusing the shelter of hiding undocumented migrants and helping people cross the border illegally. Operators of the shelter reject both claims.
Many of the soldiers wore masks, refused to identify themselves, and failed to produce a search warrant.
Mexican law, specifically Article 76 of the National Migration Law, bans these kinds of searches in migrant shelters, according to Judith Cabrera, one of the co-directors of Border Line Crisis Center.
“They are not allowed to do migratory checks in places where humanitarian aid is being provided,” she said. “It violates the right of the migrant community to receive humanitarian aid and it violates our right to provide it.”
The shelter filed an official complaint with the National Commission for Human Rights.
Mexico’s National Guard did not respond to a request for comment.
Targeting the Border Line Crisis Center is particularly problematic because that shelter is home to some of the most vulnerable migrant populations — including Black and lesbian women and single mothers with young children, said Ramos, the nonprofit director.
“Women have to protect women in this city because the authorities do not protect us,” she said. “In many cases, the authorities are the ones that are against us or actively trying to harm us.”
Tijuana’s humanitarian workers called the midnight raid an escalation of the Mexican government’s immigration enforcement. They also criticized the United States’ efforts to pressure Mexico into preventing migrants from reaching the U.S. border in the first place.
“Mexico is just doing the job that the U.S. government is paying them to,” Ramos said.
The U.S. has used economic and political pressure — through foreign aid distribution and binational agreements — to detain migrants on the Mexico-Guatemala border and even accept non-Mexican migrants through programs like Title 42.
In turn, Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has increasingly relied on the Mexican National Guard for immigration enforcement. But critics see a lack of oversight over National Guard troops accused of violating people’s human rights.
Nonprofit organizations like Human Rights Watch have documented instances of migrants being robbed or extorted by local law enforcement agents in Mexico.
Although those kinds of shakedowns are relatively common among Mexico’s migrant population, Cabrera said it’s rare for National Guard troops to try to force their way into a shelter.
“This kind of attacks on places that provide humanitarian aid, we have not seen as much before, that’s a new level,” she said.