Border Shelters Aiding Deported Migrants Experience Own Harassment
Astrid Galvan - The Associated Press
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November 21, 2016

Deportees pray as they gather for breakfast provided by the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico (Jae C. Hong/AP)

Vandals broke into a shelter, left feces on crosses made by migrant men and trashed other parts of the building. Someone made a threatening call to a priest who helps serve warm meals to recently deported immigrants.

The soup kitchen for deported migrants in the Mexican city of Nogales, on the border with Arizona, has seen a spate of crimes this year. Its leader says the incidents likely are tied to the center's growing involvement in helping migrants report crimes.

"We've been robbed before, but we've never had a break-in like that," said the Rev. Sean Carroll, head of the center known in Spanish as a "comedor." His efforts won Pope Francis' praise last year.

The break-in and vandalism at the Kino Border Initiative-run center are part of a border-wide problem of drug cartels that see migrant shelters as an impediment to their business because they protect migrants who otherwise could be forced into smuggling drugs or extorted for money to cross into the U.S.

Carroll says migrants have increasingly told staff and volunteers they were robbed or kidnapped by criminal organizations hoping to seize on attempts to cross the border.

"I think it comes in waves," said Maureen Meyer, a senior associate with the Washington Office on Latin America. "They're protecting something that criminal organizations use as a profit."

In Nogales, staffers have escorted migrants to police departments and helped them file reports on at least 10 occasions this year, Carroll says. The kitchen served over 4,300 meals in October and provides shelter for a limited number of migrants.

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