The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Forced Criminal Activities along Mexico's Eastern Migration Routes and Central America Department of Public Affairs and Security Studies


During our fieldwork, we visited two cities in the state of Oaxaca. Due to a history of local pro-migrant activism, the state has been known among experts for the good quality of its migrant shelters. The first city we visited was Chahuites, located on the border of Oaxaca with Chiapas. In Chahuites, the La Bestia train comes to a full halt, allowing migrants to disembark and rest in the local migrant shelter. The other city we visited was Ixtepec. It was in this city that migrant rights activitst Father Alejandro Solalinde started his journey to bring attention to the human rights violations that migrants experience in Mexico’s migration routes.  

In most cities along the migrant route, migrants reported that law enforcement agents and criminals often abused and robbed them. The cities of Ixtepec and Chahuites present contrasting scenarios. In Chahuites and in most cities in Oaxaca, migrants report being regularly mistreated and abused. However, thanks in large part to migrant rights activism in the city, Ixtepec municipal authorities have provided migrants with a safer space than the ones they usually encounter across the country.

The number of abuse complaints filled by migrants has increased yearly in Ixtepec. This trend is attributed to the work of the local migrant shelter, Hermanos en El Camino, which encourages migrants to contact the authorities and file complaints. The complaints are not restricted to abuses and crimes that occurred in Ixtepec or Oaxaca. Regarding human trafficking, experts told us that no cases of human trafficking for criminal activities have been reported yet. There were no reports on the presence of TCOs in the city of Ixtepec or Chahuites. Crimes against migrants were attributed to local criminal groups. In some instances, the perpetrators were local landowners extorting migrants transiting through Ixtepec.

Our research indicates that Oaxaca experiences a high incidence of labor exploitative activities. Although human trafficking often incur in labor exploitation, human trafficking, by definition, must involve the element of deceit and fraud. Experts agreed that migrants in Ixtepec work under terrible conditions and are unfairly paid, when they are paid. Employers in the construction, service, and agriculture industries routinely offer employment to migrants. Instead of merely transiting through Ixtepec, many migrants have recently decided to settle in the city. Most of them are waiting on pending cases of abuse that could result in the legalization of their stay in Mexico. Some human rights organizations have offered free legal services and helped migrants receive compensations.

In Ixtepec, we were only informed of one case involving human trafficking. The case involved a couple who arrived at the migrant shelter in Ixtepec and offered waitress jobs in a nearby city to migrants. One female migrant accepted the offer. She later returned to the shelter and took an underage migrant with her. Staff of the shelter provided the underage female minor with contact numbers in case she ran into a situation where she felt endangered. The girl contacted the shelter after she had been a victim of sexual exploitation.