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The Reality of Mexican and Central Americans Migrants in México and the United States

By Karla Ortiz and Tania Noriz

In Mexico, immigration to the United States has been an option for many in order to stay alive and support a family, while for others, it represents a situation of danger and often death.

Our country has been become the required route for Central Americans, mainly from the Honduras as well as from El Salvador and Guatemala, who leave their country in the hope of having a better life, leaving behind poverty and violence.

Every day it’s becoming more common to see these Central American migrants who make a “stop” in San Miguel, when the train that they are taking to the United States passes though here. They get off the train in search of food, water, and the “charity” of people who support them with a few coins. “In Esquipulas everything is very expensive and there is a lot of extreme poverty. I’m hoping to cross the border into the US,” said Miguel who is 37 years old and from Guatemala.

According to information from the Government Secretariat through its portal

www.politicamigratoria.gob.mx, from January to June 2017, 153 people from Central America of whom 113 were from the Honduras appeared before the authorities in San Miguel for not confirming their immigration status.

There are groups of people who voluntarily try to support migrants like Miguel with whatever they can, toiletries, water, shoes, hats, blankets, or backpacks. ABBA in Celaya, and the RR team (see Atención San Miguel, August 4, 2017) are two of these groups. Immigrants are constantly being detained by immigration officers and are locked up without knowing what their destiny will be or how long they will be there. Unfortunately we’ll never know what treatment they receive or whether they are appropriately deported to their country of origin.

We went to the offices of the National Institute of Immigration (INM) on Calzada de la Estación to request some information about the deportation process and the situation of the migrants detained there. However, Lizbeth Pineda, the local delegate, denied us an interview and advised us to search for information on the INM website.

On the other hand, the Mexican Commission for Assistance to Refugees (COMAR) is an institution that is responsible for providing shelter, protection, and assistance to Central American immigrants who arrive in México and whose destination is beyond the northern border. COMAR is a separate organization from INM, which is responsible for determining if the migrants are eligible for asylum or not. INM is also in charge of deporting them. “It is very complicated because INM has the authority to determine if they can stay or if a process of deportation will be initiated,” said Valeria Fernández, an independent reporter from Arizona, TX. She visited our city to look for information and stories about the present situation of the Central Americans and Sanmiguelense migrants in the US. Her research will be included in an article on immigration.

Besides COMAR, the Safe Houses located in Celaya, Irapuato, Salamanca, and Guanajuato are also an option for refugees who are looking for food and a shower.

As well as migrants who travel across México on the way to the US, we can also find deportees who are traveling on the train to go back home. A typical deportee is Rodrigo, a 33-year-old Mexican from San Miguel. “I lived in Houston for 14 years until the laws and the president changed and then I came back home three months ago. After I was deported I was in an immigration prison for six months … You live well until you go through the migration process. That’s another story. They take away your belongings and leave you with nothing. There is more discrimination and more racism now. Racism has been around for years, but it’s worse now. I would not advise anyone to cross illegally because it’s very dangerous, it hurts a lot, and it’s harder than it was before,” he said.

As for the United States immigration policy, Fernández said, “The situation with President Donald Trump is that he himself has been responsible for making the media publicize the issue of deportations. He has said so often, ‘We are going to deport them.’ Obama was much more discrete.” He agrees with Javier Cerritos, from the Protection and Legal Issues Consul in Oxnard, California, who said, “What they are doing is really exactly the same as what Obama did but, unfortunately, there has been a misunderstanding because of so much media publicity about the famous raids. When they mention that they are going to conduct a raid, they mean that they are going to carry out an operation to detain a specific person. When the media report that there was a raid, people understand that it was an operation to detain as many people as possible.” Unfortunately this has caused a lot of panic in the community because people think that they are making large numbers of arrests, but the truth is that they are not.”

According to Cerritos, immigration officers are detaining people with criminal records, whether it was robbery, armed robbery, rape, or any other crime that is on record and was committed by a migrant. That is why it’s easy for the authorities to find them in their homes or on the street. “The three groups sought by immigration officers are persons who have been detained previously and deported and are found in the US once again, people with criminal records, and people who already have been ordered to leave. These are people who have been previously identified,” said Cerritos.

According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), the Obama presidency set a record for deportations, but actually the number of deportees during Trump’s administration, as compared to Obama’s, has been quite comparable. For example, in February 2016 there were 15,645 deportees and in February 2017 there were 12,207, according to the Immigrant Statistical Bulletin, (www.politicamigratoria.gob.mx.)

Voluntary support for refugees

“The positive side of all this is that now the migrants are getting more attention, and that attention brings more resources to help them. The question is, where are all the people who have been deported and what do they and their children need?,” Valeria Fernández asked.

In San Miguel de Allende there is a group called the Tracks Team and the person in charge of coordinating this group of volunteers is Toni Roberts. Finding migrants is not very easy. The volunteers spend days without seeing one migrant. But they don’t stop. They continue searching until they find them and help them. “Migrants can spend days walking along the tracks, and some don’t even get on a train. They just continue on their way because they know where they are going. Some migrants and deportees go down to the river to wash their clothing, while others go to the highways to get some money or some food to survive. I think that it is important for people to know about the difficult situations that migrants are experiencing,” said Roberts.

Roberts, along with other volunteers, go out with backpacks, shoes, clothes, sweatshirts, and caps to San Miguel Viejo (close to Otomí). “It’s really about getting lucky. We may not see any refugees for a long time and then we may see six on the same day. There is no specific pattern.”

Roberts said that there are days when the train doesn’t stop at the train station or in front of La Esmeralda. Instead, it stops in Celaya or Dolores Hidalgo and the refugees have to continue the rest of their way on foot. “Some mothers with children ask for money for bus travel.”

For some time, the support group, Tracks Team, has gone into the INM office to donate goods and basic necessities to refugees who are locked up. Thanks to the support of one person who works in the office, Toni and her group of volunteers have permission to distribute supplies and toys for the children.

“I was in the US for seven months but they caught me and deported me. I suffered a lot on the train. We crossed semi-desert areas and other very humid areas. Often our clothes were wet and dirty. Sometimes we had to walk and we were always running away from the authorities. A lot of things happen on the train. People don’t know about it and we don’t tell people about it,” said Alejandro, aged 44, who was on the tracks in front of La Esmeralda.

The situation in the US

One of the main problems facing refugees in the United States is their immigration status, because, according to Fernández, the people who provide them with employment or shelter threaten them, abuse them, and violate their human rights. They say, ‘if you want a day off, I will report you to the immigration authorities’. The conditions in which most of them live are sub-human, dirty places with rats and cockroaches.”

According to the journalist, by the mid-2000s, Arizona was the gateway for 50 percent of the migrants crossing the desert. The US began to build fences and walls on the 2,000-mile border, but only managed to build 700 fences. They started closing the urban areas and people began to cross using more difficult routes, and that increased the number of people dying from dehydration.

“The authorities take advantage of the situation with the refugees. When they see migrants on the street they ask them for a bribe or they abuse them, knowing that they are vulnerable. The migrants can’t ask the authorities for help because they fear mprisonment.”

The Consulate in Oxnard is campaigning so that the relevant authorities can be approached by documented or undocumented people when they have a security problem. Then they can be helped like any other person. As it is now, many of the Mexican and Central American people who live in California and throughout the United States fear that the authorities will do them even more harm than they have already experienced.

The system of application and political asylum in Mexico, according to Fernández and Consul Cerritos, “is gentler and kinder. If a person does not succeed in crossing the border and goes to the offices of COMAR, they will initiate the process but they don’t imprison the person. But when they arrive at the border and cross into the United States, they take them to a detention center. There have been cases of people who spend up to a year in detention. It’s not really a prison but they are not free.”

How can you help?

If you would like to help Central Americans migrants, you can support the RR, ABBA and Tracks Team in the following ways:

• Visit the web page: https://www.youcaring.com/ rrgroupproject-879917

• Make cash donations in: Judith Chaikin’s La Conexión account, box #191.

• Make donations via paypal to: davidsonsher@icloud.com (for the RR Refugee Relief/Railroad Tracks group).

• Enroll as a volunteer for the Tracks Team project or ask for a list of supplies for refugees: roberts_toni@yahoo.com.

• Get more information and enroll as a volunteer in one of the help groups: Judith Chaikin at jachaikin@gmail.com, or Linda Sorin at lindainsma@gmail.com.

• Take a package in your car with the supplies mentioned above to give to refugees on the road.

• Guide them to a migrant’s safe house or to the Red Cross.

The Foreign Ministry has given out the telephone number 001 520 623 7874 that you can call from within Mexico to request updates on immigration policies or the location of people that you think are lost or detained. SER is responsible for any follow-up.

 

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