Who is Pueblo Sin Fronteras and why are they leading migrant caravans?

While the issue of the migrant caravans has largely dropped off the media radar lately in the midst of the shutdown theater drama, the problem hasn’t gone away. If anything, the swelling number of migrants waiting in the Tiajuana area is festering as the migrants grow frustrated with the long wait for their claims to be processed. (American officials are processing up to one hundred per day, but there is already a waiting list in the thousands.) But surely they must have known they were going to run into these sorts of logistical problems, right?

Not really. Many of them seem genuinely surprised with the chilly reception they received from some Mexican officials and the backlog at the U.S. border. And there may be a reason for that. The Washington Times takes a deep dive this week into a supposed human rights group which seems to be playing a key role in both forming these massive caravans and setting unrealistic expectations for them about what the migrants’ journey would entail. The group is called Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People Without Borders), and one of their leaders, Irineo Mujica, is heavily involved with “leading” the caravans toward the United States and discouraging the migrants from looking for work and residency in Mexico.

For the migrants, there is safety in numbers when traveling through crime-ridden Mexico. Such journeys would be near-impossible without the help of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, a collective of about 40 U.S. and Mexican activists that is most closely associated with the U.S.-bound caravan phenomenon. Mujica, a dual U.S.-Mexican citizen who grew up in Arizona, is one of their leading voices.

Pueblo Sin Fronteras activists maintain they simply accompany what they call an “exodus” from Central America and want to ensure migrant rights are respected. But they have drawn increasing criticism, even from one-time allies, who say they play a much larger role than they claim, downplay the dangers of such treks, especially for families and small children, and encourage illegal immigration.

The most recent caravan brought more than 6,000 people to Tijuana, Mexico, last month, where they lived in a squalid, city-funded shelter for two weeks and got a chilly reception from the mayor and some residents.

These caravans have been forming up for a few years now, but they were originally home-grown affairs attracting only a couple hundred participants at most. Once Pueblo Sin Fronteras got involved, however, the numbers spiked into the thousands. The group is funded through Freedom for Immigrants, a non-profit outfit based in San Francisco. They always insist that they are not the “leaders” of the caravans, but whenever the groups of migrants take a vote on what to do next, it seems that Irineo Mujica or one of the other Pueblo Sin Fronteras members is the person doing the counting and “explaining” their options.

That’s where the problem comes in. According to the linked report, Mujica regularly tells the migrants that Mexico doesn’t approve many asylum requests and doesn’t really want them. He also allegedly downplays problems with gaining asylum in the United States and encourages them to “keep going” and make it to the American border, despite the fact that Mexico is opening up their southern territory to more immigrants and creating jobs for them.

Mujica was arrested in October on charges of obstructing Mexican federal officials and aiding a group of Honduran migrants who were illegally crossing over the border from Guatemala into Mexico. He claims he wasn’t involved in organizing the most recent (and largest) caravans in Honduras and is only doing humanitarian work on their behalf. But if he’s steering the migrants away from a possible new life in Mexico and setting many of them up for failure at the American border, is he really helping?

There’s no proof offered that Mujica and his colleagues are actively encouraging migrants to cross into America illegally or helping them to do so. But some of the charitable organizations in Mexico are suspicious that he might be. Perhaps it’s time for Congress to open up an investigation into this group and see exactly what they’re up to.