After recent deaths and injuries as more migrants hitch rides on its freight trains, Mexican transport firm Ferromex said that for the first time ever it will temporarily halt service on 60 different trains that travel toward the U.S. border.
The number of migrants crossing into the U.S. from Mexico is rising, and thousands are hitching rides on northbound trains.
A spokesperson for Ferromex’s parent company, Grupo Mexico, told NBC News this is the first time the transportation company has shut down its railways due to migrant hitchhikers, and that the number of migrants trying to ride the trains was "unprecedented."
In a statement, Ferromex said that “the accumulation of migrants in recent days has increased significantly,” and that the closure of routes into northern Mexico is intended to “avoid accidents or loss of life” after a half dozen incidents.
Ferromex is the largest freight train company in Mexico, operating more than 6,200 miles of track, and its trains service such cities on the U.S. border as Ciudad Juárez, Mexicali, Nogales and Piedras Negras.
In recent days, according to Ferromex, as many as 1,500 migrants have been trying to hitch rides on trains in Mexican cities like Torreon. On one route that ends at Ciudad Juárez, which is right across from El Paso, Texas, Ferromex said a single train may be carrying 1,000 hitchhikers.
News of the closures come as the number of migrant apprehensions along the U.S.-Mexico border continues to grow after a lull earlier this year. NBC News reported that on Sunday the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended more than 7,500 migrants along the southern border, according to two Department of Homeland Security officials.
After Ferromex announced its suspension of service, a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said, “We are encouraged by Ferromex’s announcement of suspended service on certain routes bound for the U.S.-Mexico border, in the interest of safety and security. We look forward to working with the operator to resume service, once it is safe to do so. The U.S. border is not open to illegal migration, and no one should believe the lies of smugglers who are putting migrants in deadly situations for profit. The fact is that individuals and families without a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed.”