Mexico’s latest moves to criminalize solidarity would shut down knowledge production around transit migration.
On June 5, two veteran Mexican migrants’ rights activists were arrested at gunpoint. Both men, Irineo Mujica and Cristóbal Sanchez, have worked in solidarity with migrants in Mexico for more than a decade, and they were charged with the crime of tráfico, or human smuggling. The Mexican government accuses them of being coyotes.
The arrests of Cristobal and Irineo are the latest attempts to criminalize humanitarian aid and solidarity with migrants: the Department of Homeland Security has begun compiling a list of journalists, lawyers, and activists to target; the Scott Warren trial in Arizona conflates humanitarian aid with concealment; a German biologist faces 20 years in prison for rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. But Mexico is taking this to new depths. Although Mexico dropped the initial smuggling charges against Cristobal and Irineo, the investigation remains open and now the government may charge them with transporting irregular migrants. The government’s argument is that accompaniment is the same as transportation. Broadly invoked, this means walking alongside vulnerable migrants to keep them from being victimized by organized crime and corrupt officials, preparing food, offering shelter, and providing care for those without legal status would be criminal. These developments are chilling on their own, but so too are their implications: the criminalization of accompaniment is also an attack on the production of knowledge, particularly the day-to-day knowledge generated by accompanying migrants en route.