In response to the caravan of migrants traveling from Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border earlier this year, my close Tahirih colleague, Guadalupe, and I visited a migrant camp.
The most important message I left with is we need more attorneys to volunteer and respond. The need continues to grow.
The situation is fluid, but they expect the rest of the caravan to arrive next week from those that had remained in southern Mexico, and they need attorneys to provide Know Your Rights trainings and legal information.
Lupe and I arrived at the camp and got a quick tour. There are an estimated 4,500-5,000 people currently in the camp that arrived en masse from the “caravan”. They are primarily from Honduras, but there are also hundreds of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans. They estimate 700 children. The Mexican government has a strong presence here – humanitarian aid, armed police, local/national/international NGOs, and churches. People are sleeping in eight large (200-1,000 people) established tents on mats on the floor. They’ve also made homes under tarps, in playground equipment, in individual tents, and on the bleachers.
Yesterday, we worked our way through one large tent and provided Know Your Rights trainings and answered questions. We met a significant number of trans women, pregnant women, and unaccompanied children. We met people that I believe are asylum eligible. We met people fleeing significant violence. A police officer, his wife, and two children who were threatened by his own colleagues and gangs for refusing to be corrupt. A gay man who had suffered years of persecution for his sexuality who kept asking, “I was born this way, what can I do?” A trans couple threatened and shot at. Unaccompanied minors with no future who joined the caravan despite having no one in the U.S. People whose parents were U.S. citizens and Legal Permanent Residents.
The situation here is complicated. Mexican officials are offering asylum, but many migrants tell us they have no faith in the process or the Mexican government. Rumors are flying of what awaits the migrants at the U.S. border and whether asylum still exists. The caravan group operates as a democracy with representatives who try to come to decisions about when to move and what route to take. Last night the “asemblea” reached no decision. There will be another asemblea tonight and the word on the ground is that a big group will move in the morning. There’s a group trying to head to Guanajuato, where the Mexican government has promised support. The organizers here think the group will splinter and take different routes. There are buses that are returning people to their home countries. Advocates express concern about the danger that awaits migrants in Tamaulipas, where no one can ensure safe passage or governmental support. It is bleak and although the travel is consistent, there is no end in sight to the suffering.