The radical activist leading the latest massive migrant caravan from Mexico to the US was once sentenced to 40 years in prison and has already led tens of thousands of asylum-seekers to the border.
Luis Garcia Villagran, a self-proclaimed Evangelical Christian who hails from Mexico, was at the forefront of a mass migration once again this week, bringing an estimated 8,000 migrants on a Christmas Eve march through Mexico to a US border already in crisis — and predicting the number of asylum-seekers could easily nearly double to 15,000 along the way.
“We try to help people least protected, especially women and child migrants,” the media-savvy frontman told The Daily Caller in a July 2022 interview. “Simply, we apply what is in the law.”
Villagran, who heads the Center for Human Dignity, boasted at the time that he had guided 40,000 migrants to the border since September 2021 — a figure that has multiplied since then and is expected to swell even more in the coming weeks and months.
The organizer told the outlet that he is not financed or assisted by external organizations — and is motivated by his faith and a belief in the right of migrants to exit their impoverished origins.
Villagran was previously arrested in the Mexican state of Chiapas in 1997 on kidnapping and conspiracy charges, allegations he denied. He was convicted by a judge and sentenced to 40 years behind bars, but working with several human rights groups, he appealed his case and was eventually freed in 2010.
The activist, who runs his group with his wife, Martha Martinez de la Fuente, said he was tortured while in custody — and that those prior struggles also fuel his mission.
The activist said he was “stigmatized as dangerous, and they took me to maximum security prisons until the [Inter-American Commission on Human Rights] demanded my freedom.”
Villagran suffered a detached retina while in solitary confinement and contends that the condition was left untreated, leading to the loss of sight in one eye.
“The damage was repaired, and that is where the Center for Human Dignity was born,” he said.
A 2021 profile in Mexico Daily described Villagran and fellow organizer Irineo Mujica as media savvy tacticians who attempt to manage perceptions of the migrant movement in addition to the thousands in their charge.
“García is more pastor than protester: pensive, eloquent, cool-headed,” the outlet wrote. “Both understand the power of public opinion, and have a knack for politics and an eye for the camera.”
As for his caravan this Christmas season, “Today we are the poorest of the poorest of those who are at the peak of need, those of us who do not have money to pay for visas or polleros,” said Villagrán, referring to human smugglers.
Villagran has vocally criticized American immigration policy in the past, calling it “domineering” and driven by a desire to “impose.”
There have been roughly 2 million migrant encounters at the US southern border in the 2022 and 2023 fiscal years.
Nearly a quarter million migrants crossed the perimeter in November alone — a new high for the month and the third highest total in history.
“We won’t be stopped, we’ll keep walking,” Villagran vowed over the weekend, according to a Reuters report.