Xenophobic delirium: The US’s race-making operation in Mexico | Inequality

In the historic center of the city of Tapachula, located in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, near the border with Guatemala, stands a golden statue of Benito Juárez, the first president of Aboriginal Mexicans, who died in 1872. Behind the statue is a wall with a quote from Juárez in capital letters, the English translation is: “Between individuals as well as between nations, respecting the rights of others is peace”.

To say the least, it’s an ironic backdrop to the scene currently unfolding in Tapachula. Not only does the city have the largest immigrant detention center in Mexico, but I myself have been imprisoned for one night in July 2021, but also effectively serves as an open-air prison for countless refugees from Haiti, Central America and beyond – many of whom are trying to reach the United States but find themselves trapped. stuck in an uncertain and extremely precarious limbo in Chiapas.

Of course, many of those displaced were forced to leave their homelands in part because of the United States’ habit of causing political and economic suffering to their fellow nations. So much for “respecting the rights of others”.

To be sure, the US is also not very respectful when it comes to insisting that Mexico does its dirty work against migrants.

The lack of respect for the individual rights of servicemen has created an abusive scene in southern Mexico, which only adds insult to injury for those who have risked their lives to get away. to this extent. As the Washington Office for Latin America noted in a report (PDF) last year, asylum seekers struggling to survive in Tapachula “faced persecution by the authorities, ranging from arbitrary detention to extortion and other forms of violence”.

The report goes on to identify that “African migrants” are among those who face “specific risk and discriminatory situations”. Indeed, Haitian asylum seekers in Mexico are frequently the victims of attacks, including armed attacks on their camps. In August 2021, the internet was shocked by the clip of Mexican security forces handling a Haitian father with a child in his arms.

Haitians make up a significant portion of Tapachula’s refuge-seeking population – and you don’t have to look too closely to see the discrimination. For example, when I back to the city During my week-long visit in January, I ordered beetroot juice from a Mexican woman whose juice stall is located just behind Benito Juárez Park, which is packed with Haitians and asylum seekers. belonging to other nationalities day and night waiting for their fate to be decided by the bureaucratic powers that be.

As soon as I received my beetroot juice and spilled it all over, I was mocked by stories of alleged violations of the Haitian people in Tapachula. According to the juice seller, these range from “dirty” to “uncultured” to presiding over the actual occupation of the city and subjugating the native population.

The racism in the woman’s allegations was mundane, unabashed – even upbeat – and part of a xenophobic delirium that was translated into news in some local media. local, began to hype the specter of invading Haitians defying hygiene.

Turns out, the day before I arrived, there was an extensive campaign in the vicinity of Benito Juárez Park aimed at weeding out Haitian street vendors selling food, clothing and other items – the latter of that was moved to another part of the city. A big show was made, with elements of the Mexican National Guard and the city police overseeing the dramatic sweeping, mopping and scrubbing of downtown streets that have never been seen before. know exactly to be clean from the start.

I learned of this operation when, continuing from the juice bar in search of an avocado, I encountered a group of police deployed across the street with riot shields. In response to my question about whether there was any trouble, one policewoman grinned and assured me it was just “limpieza” – a word that means “clean up” but that word itself. naturally takes on more sinister shades in a racist context.

Then I spoke to a young man from rural Haiti who spent two months and 11 days in Tapachula and showed me a map on his cell phone of all the countries he visited. He went through to get there – starting from Chile, many other countries. thousands of kilometers away. Across The infamous Darien GapHe said he sailed from Colombia and then hiked for 5 days through the Panamanian jungle, which resulted in the sighting of numerous corpses and the robbery of $200 by an armed assailant.

The last country on his map is the United States, but it is unknown how much more torture it will take to get there. After all, as a Haitian in Mexico, he is not just seen as an “illegal immigrant”; he also faces an increased layer of abuse due to the color of his skin – a sometimes deadly combination.

However, the underlying cause for the whole bad disposition lies in the racist border policies of the United States – the blame multiplies if you consider that the United States spent more than one century doing its best to make Haiti uninhabitable. After a period in 1914 in which U.S. Marines flooded Port-au-Prince and stole half of the country’s gold reserves to secure Wall Street, the United States continued to profit. at Haiti’s expense by brutal invasion and occupation, supporting autocrats and torturers, supporting coups and militaries to reduce Haitian wages.

But the beauty of imperialism is that in the end, you don’t have to worry about “respecting the rights of others”.

In her 2021 book Borders and Rules: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racial Nationalism, scholar Harsha Walia documents how the United States “contains containment.” and detention of Haitian refugees in the 1980s and 1990s” – including their illegal transport abroad by the United States. the penal colony known as Guantánamo Bay – “laying the groundwork for the current US system of land and offshore immigrant detention”.

Detaining immigrants, Walia writes, is ultimately a “race-creating regime”—one that maintains a social order based on glaring inequality. And as the creation of races moves rapidly in the US-outsourced Tapachula open-air prison, the statue sitting there certainly has a lot to think about.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.

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