Hundreds of asylum-seekers detained in body bag factory: report

Hundreds of migrants seeking asylum were being held at a factory in Mexico that was once used to make body bags, a field officer with an aid group tells The Hill.

The Daily Beast reported Tuesday that the migrants are facing harsh conditions in the now-abandoned factory that supplied the U.S. Army, including long lines for food and a shortage of warm clothes.


About 1,600 people being held in the facility were part of a migrant caravan that the Mexican government put on buses headed toward the border city of Piedras Negras, where the factory is located. The migrants were hoping to apply for asylum in the U.S., a Mexican government official told The Daily Beast. 

“They have us locked up as prisoners,” said one detainee in a recording obtained by the Daily Beast. "This cold is tremendous, and the real truth is that there are children, there are sick people, there are seniors, and … we’re in an abandoned factory.”

Joe Rivano Barros, a field worker from RAICES, which provides legal services for immigrants and refugees, said he expected the factory to be emptied by Wednesday because Mexican officials were either deporting them or putting them on buses going to other Mexican cities.

“It seems like the Mexican government is attempting to disperse this caravan to dissuade future ones from forming,” Barros said, adding that the people being brought to other Mexican cities will be given humanitarian visas that will allow them to stay and work.

He said the people from the caravan were seeking asylum for various reasons including gang violence and persecution for being gay or transgender.

“For some people, staying in Mexico is not safe, for sure, especially the most vulnerable people like LGBTQ people,” he said.

The Mexican government and the Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to The Hill's requests for comment. 

A new U.S. policy, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols program, now leaves asylum seekers in Mexico while they wait for their claims to be processed after they reach the U.S. border. Last week, the administration sent the first group of migrants to Mexico.

The group that is being held in the factory seemingly never reached the U.S. border, so they have not directly been subjected to the protocol.

--Updated at 2:51 p.m.