CIUDAD ACUNA, Mexico — Naty Zuniga, 60, choked up trying to explain what she witnessed on the streets of Acuna this week.
Many Haitian migrants ate at a restaurant downtown where her daughter works and where Zuniga often helps serving tables.
Mexican authorities, she said, are picking up Haitian migrants off the streets. It can happen at any hour of the day. Acuna residents claimed Wednesday that migrants are often mistreated once they are picked up and it is not clear where they will be taken.
“I know (the authorities) are trying to do their jobs but there are so many of us who, just like them, are not from here,” Zuniga, who left Durango, Mexico, and arrived in Acuna as a child with her family, said while she wiped away tears. “We arrived here in the same manner, but we didn’t have any. “I know they are struggling,” I said.
Haitian migrants walked the streets of Acuna on Wednesday looking for food, water and clothing to take back to an encampment on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande, in Del Rio, Texas. Others have also set up camp in Acuna’s park.
Raids have been occurring this week on the streets of the Mexican border town and at many local hotels in the middle of the night, residents, hotel guests and hotel staff said Wednesday. Tuesday night was the latest raid.
Earlier this week, Cuidad Acuna officials said in a statement that local police weren’t engaging in immigration enforcement but were assisting federal immigration authorities under an agreement. The terms of the agreement are not known.
Haitian migrants said Wednesday they were scared and staying vigilant. Frantz Sainlus, one hundred of the hundreds of Haitian migrants seeking asylum in America, stated that they don’t have other options.
He’s crossing the river every morning to come to Mexico and gather water and food for his wife and 1-year-old daughter waiting in Del Rio.
Sainlus, 27, said he knows he’s risking detention and deportation.
“There’s not enough to eat. He said, “We have to do that.” “If we see immigration or police here, we just run. “
For Haitian migrants in Acuna, it isn’t safe in the streets and it isn’t safe inside hotel rooms where they have tried to spend the night this week.
Edwin Sorto, a migrant who is originally from El Salvador, stayed at one of the hotels in the town that was raided Tuesday night.
He witnessed Mexican authorities taking families out of hotel rooms by force.
“I heard women and children crying,” he said. He said, “They said that we are human and have rights. It was terrifying. “
Non-Haitian migrants who were detained by Mexican immigration officials Tuesday said they did not experience or witness mistreatment.
A Black woman from Honduras, who asked to not be named for safety concerns, said she was detained because Mexican authorities believed she was Haitian.
She and many Haitian migrants staying at a downtown hotel Tuesday night were asked by Mexican authorities to gather their belongings. They were taken to an immigration office near them by officials.
“They were respectful, asked us if we were hungry, if we needed food or water,” the woman said Wednesday. “I explained to them that I was from Honduras, and that I was authorized for Mexico. I was released a few hours later.
Hotel managers said when authorities walk into hotel lobbies to search for migrants, they do not have warrants. Two men who manage Acuna hotels said Wednesday that they are uncomfortable standing up against Mexican authorities in order to end the raids.
“I risk getting arrested by them or getting my establishment shut down,” one man, who asked not to be named for safety concerns, said. It’s very sad. It’s sad. “
Austin American-Statesman reporter Natalia Contreras can be reached at 512-626-4036 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Natalia ECG on Twitter and Facebook.