MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A Salvadoran man seeking asylum in the United States was kidnapped and murdered in the Mexican border city of Tijuana where he was sent to wait for his asylum court hearing under a migrant protection program instated by President Donald Trump.
Critics of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) have argued that the migrants affected by the initiative, mostly from the impoverished and violence-plagued countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, are at risk in Mexico.
“They sent us back. We said Tijuana was really dangerous, there was a lot of crime but they didn’t listen to us. They said that they couldn’t do anything because those were Trump’s orders,” the man’s widow said.
The widow and her lawyer asked for her and her husband’s name to remain anonymous for security reasons.
Along the U.S.-Mexico border, the migrants, many of them babies and toddlers, are living in high-crime cities, often in crowded shelters and tents or on the streets – for the weeks or months it takes to get a U.S. asylum hearing.
The 35-year-old Salvadoran man, father of two, had waited for four months in Tijuana where he had found a job at a pizzeria, said his widow.
“They kidnapped my husband, he disappeared and unfortunately when I found him he was dead,” said the widow.
He was killed on Nov. 20 after being stabbed in the neck, chest and abdomen, according to a death certificate seen by Reuters on Thursday.
Mexican authorities said the man was “dismembered” and they are investigating the circumstances surrounding his death.
Since MPP was launched in January 54,000 migrants have been sent to wait in Mexico for their U.S. immigration court hearings.
A report released last week by the New York City-based organization Human Rights First found at least 636 publicly reported cases of kidnapping, rape, torture, assault, and other violent attacks against migrants sent to Mexico under the program.
“We didn’t cross over illegally, we crossed over the right way, we waited our turn to do things right. That’s why this is so unfair,” said the widow.
Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan on Monday rejected the idea that the Trump administration was responsible for attacks on migrants waiting in Mexico and blamed criminal organizations.
A dozen years of gang-fueled violence have claimed well over 200,000 lives in Mexico and murders hit record levels last year. They are on track for another record year in 2019.
(Reporting by David Alire Garcia; Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Michael Perry for REUTERS).