Migrants camp out by the railroad tracks near the Paso del Norte international bridge in Ciudad Juárez. (Blanca Carmona / La Verdad)
By Blanca Carmona / La Verdad

CIUDAD JUAREZ – Members of the Mexican National Guard fired at a group of migrants who were spending the night under the Paso del Norte Bridge in Juárez early Wednesday – just hours ahead of a visit by U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar.

The incident was captured on video by the migrants.

The migrants were sleeping on cardboard and blankets near the downtown offices of the Consejo Estatal de Población, or COESPO, (the State Population Council), and next to the train tracks, when the National Guard arrived and started shouting and ordering them to leave the area.

Some guardsmen assaulted some of the migrants before firing at least nine shots, migrants in the area said. At the site were boys, girls, women, some of them pregnant, as well as men.

The National Guard didn’t return calls seeking comment on the incident.

The incident occurred at about 1 a.m. Wednesday, a few hours before an official visit by Salazar and Richard Verma, U.S. undersecretary of state for administration and resources. The two talked immigration issues with Chihuahua Gov. María Eugenia Campos Galván, and among other stops, visited a migrant shelter in Juárez and later held a press conference at COESPO. 

In one of the videos recorded by the migrants and shared with La Verdad, several people can be seen walking along the train tracks carrying cardboard, scraps of cloth and pillows after having been ordered to leave the place.

In the video, migrants can be heard screaming, allegedly being beaten by the uniformed officers. The video also captured the sound of the first gunshot. At the same time, people are heard shouting, “Let’s go, let’s go!”

Later in the video, people are heard saying, “They are hitting people,” and “record them!”

YouTube video

“The train stops here in this area, and police came and told (migrants) to get out, to get out of here. There were people who were asleep. Then they kicked and shoved them, and later they started pulling them and shooting. They fired shots into the air, and there were many people who were hit by the rocks that shot up. They were left cut, hurt. It was very ugly,” said Eli, a Honduran migrant who had been in Ciudad Juárez for two months.

La Verdad doesn’t identify the migrants by their full name for their protection.

Other migrants said that they were not blocking the passage of the train, just sleeping near the railroad tracks because they had nowhere to spend the night. The area has become a makeshift camp where migrants wait to cross the border and enter the United States.

“Many of us Venezuelans get upset because they treated us like animals and they shouldn’t. I think they should have a little more respect and it wasn’t like that,” one migrant said, adding that the National Guard arrived at the site “aggressively.”

He said that one guardsman attacked a Venezuelan and then the migrants started throwing stones.

Later in the day, some migrants went to COESPO, where the press conference was being held, in hopes of speaking with Ambassador Salazar or other U.S. officials.

However, the men in suits who appeared to be security prevented them from approaching the area as the delegation of U.S. and Mexican officials were leaving.

“We’re asking for help, just let us cross. We have children. Last night, a shooting broke out here,” a migrant named Ali said as he recounted how he and his children hid when they heard the shots fired. “We are migrants, we come from afar, we went through a very difficult journey. For God’s sake help us … there was a shooting here with the military, we were asleep.”

At the site of the incident, what appears to be at least two bullet marks could be seen on the concrete.

This story was produced as part of the Puente News Collaborative, a binational partnership of news organizations in Ciudad Juárez and El Paso.