A documentary about the work of the Rev. Alejandro Solalinde on behalf of Central American migrants making the journey through Mexico discusses the extortion rackets, murders, mass kidnappings and massacres that those looking to reach the United States are subjected to.
"Over five years, he has saved many people from the traffickers of lives who operate in the areas around the train that the Central Americans use on their trip to the United States," Alejandra Islas, who directed "El Albergue" (The Shelter), told Efe.
The documentary, which was made with the support of Amnesty International's Mexico chapter, gives viewers a window into the work of Solalinde, who founded and runs the Hermanos en el Camino shelter, as well as telling the "microstories" of migrants aided by the shelter, which provides a roof, food and "spiritual relief," Islas said.
"Solalinde has put his life in danger to defend them," Islas said, adding that the Catholic priest has received death threats and warnings to leave the shelter in Ixtepec, a city in the southern state of Oaxaca.
About 200 migrants arrive each day at the shelter in search of food and a place for the night, Islas said.
In May, the priest took the advice of Mexican and foreign groups and left the country for several weeks after saying that the threats were "not just from organized crime, but also from authorities and corrupt police officers."
Islas, who spent time with Solalinde and the migrants at several points in the past few years, said the situation was "truly dramatic" at the shelter.
The situation, however, is not unique to Ixtepec since dozens of cities in Mexico are also transit points for migrants, the filmmaker said.
"El Albergue" made its debut at the Guadalajara International Film Festival in the Mexican documentary category.
The film was screened Friday night at the University Center in Tlatelolco amid great expectations and will be shown at the Federal District Human Rights Festival.
The most important goal of the film is "to sensitize the population, Mexicans, in all the places where the migrants pass, to the hardships they endure and give them a voice," Islas said.
The situation of migrants in Mexico "is critical," with National Human Rights Commission, or CNDH, figures showing that 11,333 migrants were kidnapped in Mexico over a six-month span, Amnesty International Mexico director Alberto Herrera said.
The migrant issue has been "ignored historically" and "never makes the front pages of the national newspapers," Herrera told Efe.
The issue "rarely appeared on the country's public agenda," but this is changing, Herrera said.
To "speak (now) of human rights in the country without touching on the migration issue is to start an incomplete discussion," Herrera said.
"Six of every 10 women have suffered some type of sexual abuse" in southern Mexico when the migrant journey to the United States is only one-fifth of the way done, Herrera said, citing Amnesty International studies.
"Many of them arrive at the shelters asking for contraceptive injections because they see it as a given that they will be raped on the road to the United States. Extortion, murders, mass kidnappings and massacres have been the story of migration in the past few years," Herrera said.
"The extremely negligent behavior of authorities" is behind the violations of migrants' rights, with officials allowing "the meting out of justice with practically null results," the Amnesty International representative said.
"This is an extremely serious situation because in the end impunity is not a circumstantial political matter but a political message that is sent to society, that is, it is very cheap to assault a migrant, kidnap him, murder him in this country, I would almost say that it is free," Herrera said.
Solalinde to a great extent has done "the work of the authorities," registering the abuses committed against migrants and keeping the figures in his notebooks, as well as going to the safe houses where kidnapping victims are kept to rescue them, Herrera said.
"His life is in danger not just because he feeds the migrants but because he has gone into the darkest and most impenetrable bowels of organized crime and in those bowels is where he has touched extremely powerful interests," the Amnesty International representative said.