A Mexican asylum seeker has taken his own life on a bridge across the Rio Grande after being refused entry to the US, in an incident highlighting the often desperate plights of those being turned away by Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration.
The man, who was reportedly in his 30s and has not been identified, had attempted to cross from the Mexican city of Reynosa into Pharr, Texas, on Wednesday afternoon.
But he was turned back on the international bridge and shortly after 5pm cut his own throat.
Footage published by the local El Mañana de Reynosa newspaper showed armed Mexican police sealing off the area where the man’s body had fallen as cars and lorries continued to advance over the bridge.
There was no immediate suggestion why the man had decided to take his own life but local authorities said they were investigating.
The incident was not the first of its kind. In 2017, a 45-year-old Mexican migrant named Guadalupe Olivas Valencia jumped to his death in Tijuana less than an hour after being “repatriated” from the US.
Olivas Valencia had reportedly been working illegally as a gardener in California to support his three children back in Mexico when he was deported.
This week’s suicide again cast a light on the bleak conditions facing the growing number of migrants being turned away from the US’s southern border and the dangers facing them back home, in crime-ridden communities in Central America and Mexico.
In the past year, more than 57,000 asylum seekers have been pushed back into Mexico as part of a Trump administration scheme called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) project, or Remain in Mexico.
Activists claim the initiative is endangering vulnerable asylum seekers by forcing them to wait months for court hearings in some of Mexico’s most dangerous border towns.
Last month the advocacy group Human Rights First accused the White House of exposing asylum seekers to “life-threatening dangers” after documenting 636 cases of kidnapping, rape, torture, assault and other violent attacks against those returned to Mexico.
Among the victims were a nine-year-old disabled girl and her mother, who were kidnapped and raped after being sent back to Tijuana.
The Human Rights First researcher Kennji Kizuka said that with schemes such as Remain in Mexico the Trump administration was moving “to essentially shut down asylum and refugee access to the United States”.
“All these polices are edging us closer and closer to zero refugees or asylum seekers [being] admitted to the US,” Kizuka said. “It all just grows out of the xenophobia of the administration – at base that is what it is.”
In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email [email protected] or [email protected]. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.