Hundreds of Central American migrants trying to make their way to the United States have been stranded in Mexico in recent weeks after the freight-train line they ride — labeled the Beast — began enforcing a ban on stowaways, migrant advocates say. The migrants, often desperate to leave poverty and crime in their home countries, brave riding atop the train cars, activists say, and are prey to criminals who have been accused of rape, robbery and murder.
Many of the migrants have ended up in already crowded shelters, which have reported populations now swelling beyond capacity with men, women and children. Migrant activists say that once the migrants are stranded, they face a difficult decision of whether to return home or try the journey north by foot or car, leaving them vulnerable to criminal gangs and corrupt police along the way. Crew members of the railroad, which is featured in books and documentaries about the migration north, normally turn a blind eye to migrants scrambling to stow away on the trains.
But after the southern Mexico state of Veracruz filed a lawsuit last month accusing the railroad of complicity in the violence on the trains, the train operators began banning the stowaways, migrant advocates said. The train line is run by Ferrosur and Kansas City Southern de Mexico. According to activists, train cars overloaded with migrants have been unhitched and left idle, and the train has skipped stops where scores of migrants waited.
Another rail line known for carrying Central American migrants continues to allow migrants on board, according to human rights activists who advocate Mexico’s granting of travel permits so the migrants can freely head north in better conditions.