Mexico Vows to Deport Illegal Immigrants From Border Cities, Stop Deadly Hitchhiking on Trains

Mexico said it hopes to 'depressure' its northern border cites by sending migrants back to their home countries.
Mexico Vows to Deport Illegal Immigrants From Border Cities, Stop Deadly Hitchhiking on Trains
Illegal immigrants ride on top of a cargo train crossing northeast Mexico on Sept. 21, 2023. (Reuters/Screenshot via NTD)
Bill Pan

Mexico will deport illegal immigrants from cities on its border with the United States and take measures to deter people from risking their lives trying to hitch a ride on cargo trains traveling to the northern border, the country's immigration authority said.

The Mexican National Migration Institute (INM) made the announcement following a Sept. 23 meeting with representatives of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Ferromex, the operator of Mexico's largest freight rail network.

The agency said it expects that the move will help "depressurize" the Mexican border cities of Ciudad Juárez, Piedras Negras, and Tijuana, and the border state of Tamaulipas, which have been overwhelmed by the recent surge of people seeking to illegally enter the United States.

As part of an agreement made during the meeting, CBP will hand over to the INM the illegal immigrants who have been expelled from the United States through the Ciudad Juárez International Bridge, and the Mexican government will "carry out negotiations with the governments of Venezuela, Brazil, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Cuba so that they receive their compatriots."

"In September alone, 189,000 migrants have been rescued, with an average of 9,000 per day," the INM said in a statement. "People from 191 different nationalities are passing through Mexico, primarily from Venezuela, Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador, Haiti and El Salvador."

The Mexican agency didn't specify when the deportations will start or how long they would last.

"We are continuing to work closely with our partners in Mexico to increase security and address irregular migration along our shared border," CBP Acting Commissioner Troy A. Miller, who attended the meeting, said in a statement. "The United States and Mexico remain committed to stemming the flow of irregular migration driven by unscrupulous smugglers, while maintaining access to lawful pathways."

Train-Hoppers Paralyze Rail Network

The Sept. 23 meeting comes after Ferromex was forced to suspend 60 of its freight trains running in the northern part of Mexico because of an "unprecedented" surge in deadly attempts by illegal migrants to hitch rides on those units.
Grupo México, the parent company of Ferromex, said last week that there had been "nearly half a dozen cases of injuries or deaths" in recent days among groups of people who boarded freight trains en route to the U.S.–Mexico border, "in spite of the grave danger this implies."

The cargo trains, including one infamously referred to by migrants as "The Beast" or "The Train of Death," for years have been used by illegal immigrants to speed up the nearly 2,000-mile trek from Mexico's southern border to its northern border.

In a video that has been widely circulated on social media, a Ferromex cargo train packed with the illegal migrants was spotted heading toward the U.S.–Mexico border. The hitchhikers can been seen cheering, clapping, and whistling while riding on top of the cargo, with some even hanging from the sides of the cars and waving at the camera.
The video was reportedly taken in Zacatecas, which is in the north-central part of Mexico. It was shared widely after Fox News reporter Griff Jenkins posted it on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, on Sept. 17, saying that the passengers were "clearly not heeding" advice from Vice President Kamala Harris, who said, in a statement directed at the would-be illegal immigrants, "Do not come."

US Border Towns Pushed to Breaking Point

The announcement also comes as the Texas cities of Eagle Pass and El Paso struggle to address the surge of illegal border crossings.

Eagle Pass Mayor Rolando Salinas Jr., a Democrat, said that more than 6,000 illegal immigrants have crossed into his city in just two days and thousands more are expected to pass through in the coming days. The city itself has a population of only about 28,000.

"Nothing that we've seen ever really—to have so many people crossing in without consequence and congregating at the international bridge," the mayor told Texas Public Radio, after signing a seven-day emergency declaration to "request financial resources to provide the additional services" required by the influx.

Meanwhile, in El Paso, where another wave of illegal border crossing brought more than 2,000 people per day, shelter capacity and other resources are being strained to "a breaking point," city officials said. Just six weeks ago, the city was seeing about 350 to 400 people coming in per day.

"The city of El Paso only has so many resources and we have come to ... a breaking point right now," Mayor Oscar Leeser, a Democrat, said at a news conference on Sept. 23.

According to Mr. Leeser, about two-thirds of those new arrivals are single men. An estimated 32 percent are families, and just 2 percent are unaccompanied children.

"I think it's really important to note that we have a broken immigration system," he said. "It's the same thing over and over again."