San Pedro Tapanatepec, Oaxaca is a town and municipality in Oaxaca in southeastern Mexico. It is part of the Juchitán District in the west of the Istmo de Tehuantepec region. The town was founded on 23 April 1669 and became a municipality on March 15, 1825. The name means “broken hill”
Today, thousands of migrants are camping in squalid conditions in this remote southern Mexican town after U.S. and Mexican authorities implemented new policies aimed at stemming the illegal flow of Venezuelans into the United States.
Located on a muddy sports field in San Pedro Tapanatepec in Oaxaca state, the camp is the largest in recent Mexican history according to advocates. About 12,000 people, largely from Venezuela, are sleeping on wooden crates under white canopy tents, on sidewalks, or in residents’ houses and backyards.
The surge of migrants in the small town is straining its infrastructure and fuelling tensions with local authorities who say they are bearing the brunt of shifting U.S. and Mexican immigration policy.
On Tuesday night, after a U.S. judge ruled unlawful a pandemic-era order known as Title 42 used to expel hundreds of thousands of migrants to Mexico, municipal authorities encouraged migrants to form a caravan to head north.
The authorities said they had threatened to empty the camp by organizing caravans unless the federal government dismantles it soon.
Any further large flows of migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border would heap pressure on the administration of President Joe Biden, already facing criticism over its immigration policies from within its own party, as well as from migrant advocates and Republican lawmakers.
“The camp is the worst thing ever because there’s sickness and there’s filth,” said Jose Maria Lopez, who left his hometown in northwestern Venezuela in September and is in the camp for a second time after authorities detained him near the U.S. border. “It’s uninhabitable,” he added.
At night, the tents echo with coughing, children crying and the buzz of mosquitoes.
By day, migrants jostle in sweltering heat to be added to lists determining when Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) will give them a temporary migration document for travel within the country. Several migrants told Reuters they had waited for over a month.
The buildup of people at the camp underscores Mexico’s efforts to cooperate with the U.S. goal of keeping migrants from advancing to its border.
Under a joint plan announced Oct. 12, aimed at quelling a record influx of Venezuelan migrants, U.S. migration authorities have been expelling Venezuelans caught crossing illegally back to Mexico under Title 42.