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Court sets limits for ‘racist’ immigration checkpoints in Mexico

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Mexican soldiers review documents at a Zacatecas checkpoint in March. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP via Getty Images

Mexican immigration agents can no longer conduct stop-and-search operations on buses and highways after the Supreme Court ruled that such checks are racist, discriminatory, and unconstitutional.

While that may be a relief to tourists riding an ADO bus without a passport, the landmark ruling stems from a case involving migrant workers from Mexico’s poorest region.

Judges sided with three young Indigenous Mexicans who were detained and abused by immigration officials in 2015 during a US-backed crackdown.

The siblings – aged 15 to 24 – were on a bus of seasonal farmhands in Querétaro, central Mexico, when apprehended by agents who targeted them because of their physical features, clothes, and limited Spanish.

The agents accused them of being undocumented immigrants from neighboring Guatemala, but they were Tzeltal Mayans from Chiapas, where 25% of the population speak an Indigenous language.

Shortly after the ordeal, the sisters, Amy and Esther, and their brother were taken to a detention center and held illegally for eight days. Alberto, then 18 and unable to read or write, was beaten and given electric shocks until he agreed to sign a deportation document falsely stating that they were Guatemalan.

The High Court ruled that 2011 immigration reforms allowing agents to stop and search anyone anywhere in Mexico are unconstitutional because agents would be free to identify undocumented migrants based on their race, skin color, physical appearance, and language.

Immigration checkpoints have spread across Mexico since 2014, as part of a bilateral US-Mexico plan to stop migrants from reaching the US border.

The ruling calls into question the role of Mexico’s armed forces, especially the national guard — a militarized public security agency created by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador — which has been deployed across the country to assist the INM. According to the court, the INM can only carry out ID checks at ports, airports, land border crossings, and other limited situations.

The government hasn’t commented on the ruling, which was handed down on Wednesday.

Source: The Guardian

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