Category Archives: Mexico

Answering call to US-Mexico border, sisters share the intensity, gifts of what they witness

A migrant family from Nicaragua seeking asylum in the U.S. waits to be transported to a Border Patrol processing facility after crossing the Rio Grande into La Joya, Texas, May 13, 2021. (CNS/Reuters/Adrees Latif)

Sr. Kristin Peters of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration traveled to Arizona, where she ministered with Casa Alitas, the Kino Border Initiative and the Tucson Samaritans, who help migrants braving the desert to cross from Mexico into the United States. She reports here on her time with the Tucson Samaritans:

When we travel with Christine of the Tucson Samaritans into the desert, she implores us to please, please tell people what the border wall has done. She asks that we show them and tell them the damage that it has caused.

Into a 4×4 vehicle we pack gallon jugs of water, a backpack filled with water and food, and Samaritan signs for the truck. Though it is unlikely, she tells us if we meet a migrant, we will offer the bag and talk with the person about what they need. The migrant may want to give up the journey or continue. They make their own decision; we do not influence them.

The Tucson Samaritans are volunteers who put water into the desert and educate groups who come to Tucson to learn about the border. The Jeep we travel in is named Joe, after former county sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was particularly inhumane in his treatment toward immigrants. Proceeds from a U.S. Justice Department civil rights lawsuit against Arpaio’s office benefited community groups that support immigrants; the Jeep named for Arpaio was paid for by the settlement.

Christine says 258 people have died this year in the desert. I understand over the last 10 years, there have been almost 6,000 deaths in the desert.

As we drive, Christine notes that migrants walk along this road hoping someone their coyotes have paid will pick them up. We pull over at a mile marker indicating 38 miles from the border checkpoint. There is a cross. We stand in solidarity, acknowledging the effects of the border wall and the severity of our immigration policy. I ask Christine why she does this work with Tucson Samaritans. She says she knows what it is like to be thirsty when hiking in the desert; it is a humanitarian thing.

She adds that the United States has signed on to international law, which allows people to come to your border to ask for asylum. Given the number of families sending their children alone, it seems we are truly only giving children a chance for refuge. She and others I have met report that men are often separated from their families, put in detention or returned to distant border towns.

We return to the truck and head toward the border wall. The stories unravel as we drive. As Christine shares, I remember Diego, who works at Casa Alitas. He described the organization as grassroots and volunteer-led. He shares this in a way that is touching, noting that it is the community volunteers who are truly the ones who make the difference. When I asked Diego why he does this work, he asked me what I would do if it were my family.

The wall comes to an end and begins again at various stops where the steel slats did not match. At the end of the wall, two water jugs are placed. I think in this way, we leave our mark. We then drive in the opposite direction, leaving jugs of water near where there are other gaps in the steel construction.

On this journey through the desert, I witnessed many who remain standing in solidarity, just as there are many who continue to seek a better life for their families in this country. Equally, I witness the many dreams lost in crossing the desert.

Near the end of our journey, at mile marker 19, we kneel and stand at the cross of an infant who was born and died in the crossing. We mark her life and her mother’s life with our tears and our prayers. Through this encuentro, we walk away with our heart and conscience pricked. Hopefully, we are provoked with a clearer sense of mission and forthcoming action.

Mercy Sisters Peggy Verstege and Carmelita Hagan paused in the airport in Laredo, Texas, on their way back from the border to write a reflection, “Shoes for the Journey”:

The young mothers and children come.

Young fathers come with children, too.

They come miles, believing that life will be better in this country.

They come tired but trusting us to help them go forward.

They come hungry and hot.

They come each day.

Most need clothes.

Many need shoes for the journey.

Each day is busy, busy … Long and hot … Sometimes chaotic … but real.

¿Tiene camiseta? ¿Pantalones? ¿Zapatos? [Do you have a T-shirt? Jeans? Shoes?]

¿Bolsa? ¿Banar? ¿Por favor? Yo tengo hambre. ¿Comida? ¿Agua? Por favor [Bag? Bath? Please? I am hungry. Food? Water? Please]

They wait in line to be processed.

They wait for food, clothing, and a place to sleep.

They wait with patience in the Texas heat.

They live in hope, a precious thread for life.

What more must we be and do for the journey?

Will the seekers be welcomed?

We can only hope and act in love, prepare food, find water and get the clothes and shoes for their journey.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/justice/ministry/answering-call-us-mexico-border-sisters-share-intensity-gifts-what-they

Migrant caravan: Mexico presses US to reform immigration policies

Guatemalan Police dissolves the caravan of thousands of people that blocked the road in Vado Hondo, Chiquimula, Guatemala, 18 January 2021
The caravan of migrants blocked a key road after being halted by police in Guatemala at the weekend

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has urged the US to make major reforms to its immigration policy as thousands of migrants were blocked by police in neighbouring Guatemala.

Mr Lopez Obrador said he was hopeful that President-elect Joe Biden would agree to work with Mexico and other countries on the issue.

About 7,000 migrants, mostly from Honduras, have entered Guatemala.

They hope to travel on to Mexico and eventually reach the US border.

Every year, tens of thousands of Central American migrants try to reach the US, often on foot, in groups known as “caravans”.

They say they are fleeing persecution, violence and poverty in their home countries. Conditions have been made worse by the devastation wrought by two huge hurricanes that battered Central America last November.

In remarks on Monday, Mr Lopez Obrador urged the US to reform its policies on immigration.

“I think the time has come for the commitment [to immigration reform] to be fulfilled, and that is what we hope,” he said.

“In Joe Biden’s campaign, he offered to finalise immigration reform and I hope that he is able to achieve this. That is what I hope.”

He said his government would try to dissuade migrants from crossing into Mexico but added that the rights of all migrants must be respected.

In Guatemala on Monday, security forces broke up a caravan of about 4,000 mostly Honduran migrants who had been camped out near the village of Vado Hondo.

Witnesses said officers, beating their batons against their shields, tried to force the group back in the direction of the Honduran border, about 50km (31 miles) away.

The migrants scattered but several threw stones at police who responded by firing tear gas.

The caravan had been held back in the area since Saturday and was blocking a key road, causing a long tail-back of traffic. Clashes broke out on Sunday as some of the migrants tried to force their way past police lines.

Speaking to reporters, Guatemalan foreign minister Pedro Brolo urged the Honduran government to help ensure “an orderly and safe passage home for those in this caravan”.

President Donald Trump has taken a hard line against illegal immigration, especially along the southern US border with Mexico. He has also put pressure on Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to crack down on northbound migrants.

Mr Biden has vowed to end the strict immigration policies of his predecessor but his administration, which will take office on Wednesday, has warned migrants not to make the journey because policies will not change overnight.

An administration official told NBC News that migrants trying to claim asylum in the US “need to understand they’re not going to be able to come into the United States immediately”.

The Biden administration will prioritise undocumented immigrants already living in the US, not those heading to the country now, the official said.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-55714865

Punished for being poor? Mexico child labor case makes poverty a crime, critics say

A Central American migrant child is silhouetted at the Pan de Vida migrant shelter at Anapra neighborhood, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico September 13, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

MEXICO CITY, – The arrest of three Mexican women accused of trafficking more than 20 children from within their extended family has been criticized by rights activists, who say they are being punished for being poor.

Prosecutors found the malnourished children during a raid last month on a house in Chiapas, the country’s poorest state, and said they were being forced by their relatives to hawk souvenirs and other trinkets in the streets.

But campaigners and family members reject the trafficking charges, saying the three indigenous women – who are mothers to some of the children – simply took the youngsters to work with them occasionally, as many low-income parents do in Mexico.

“Lots of families… go out selling with their daughters and sons because there isn’t anywhere to leave them,” said Jennifer Haza, director of Chiapas children’s rights nonprofit Melel Xojobal.

“For us, there isn’t evidence of human trafficking,” she said, adding that instead of pursuing prosecutions in such cases, the state government should be looking at ways to give vulnerable children a better start in life.

Mother-of-five Enereida Gomez, sister of one of the detained women, said they sometimes had no choice but to take the children with them onto the streets while they sold handicrafts.

“We’re not criminals,” Gomez said, sobbing at a recent news conference on the case, which has received international media attention.

Another local nonprofit Colectiva Cereza has filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) to ask for its intervention in the case, citing what it called inconsistencies in the investigation.

But Chiapas State Attorney General Jorge Llaven has defended the prosecutions, saying children can be trafficked by their parents and that being poor cannot be an excuse for crime.

“Exploitation, of course, is a crime that is closely linked with poverty, but we can’t use poverty to justify a crime or else we would become ungovernable,” he told reporters earlier this month.

“We also aren’t criminalizing poverty, I want to make that clear,” he said.

The prosecutor’s office did not respond to a request for further comment about the case, which received renewed scrutiny following the death in custody of Adolfo Gomez, an indigenous Tzotzil man and the grandfather of most of the children.

His wife was also detained.

TRAFFICKING LAW REFORM?

Labor trafficking expert Monica Salazar said it was important to consider the conditions that the three detained mothers were living in themselves, and what benefit they got from the situation.

Mexican law uses a very broad definition of trafficking, which has led to calls for it to be changed, including from the current government.

Salazar, who supports reforming the law, said it should be updated to reflect the reality of poor families.

“It’s not the same to talk about a ‘benefit’ that no one dies of hunger in a family versus organized crime taking advantage,” said Salazar, the founder of nonprofit Dignificando El Trabajo (DITRAC).

More than three quarters of people live in poverty in Chiapas, a southern state bordering Guatemala.

Thousands of children, including some of those found in the raid, do not have birth certificates or go to school, Haza said.

Twenty of the children who were found are now in a government shelter and Melel Xojobal is trying to reunite them with grandparents and other relatives. The other three are babies, so are with their mothers in prison, Haza said.

Prosecutors raided the house in Chiapas after Adolfo Gomez, the grandfather, was detained in a separate case linked to the disappearance of a two-year-old boy.

The missing boy was eventually found safe and well but Gomez died in prison within two weeks of his arrest. Relatives say prison authorities told them he had died by suicide, but they claim his body showed signs of torture.

Chiapas prosecutors said last week they had arrested two public servants for breaches of their duty of care of Gomez.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200825093239-fnkmv/

Texas Knights of Columbus work with Mexican Knights to aid migrants

Charity
Members of the Knights of Columbus help to deliver supplies to the Casa del Migrante in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Credit: Knights of Columbus.

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, (CNA).- Following an August announcement from the Knights of Columbus that the group would commit at least $250,000 to aid migrants at the US-Mexico border, the fraternal organization’s Texas leaders are announcing a joint effort with a Mexican council to aid migrants south of the border.

A caravan of Knights of Columbus from both Texas and Mexico arrived Oct. 5 at Casa del Migrante, an aid facility in Ciudad Juarez, delivering a truckload of supplies valued at $61,000, according to Terry Simonton, the Knights’ Supreme Director for Texas.

The supplies for the Juarez diocese-run facility included medicine, food, water, diapers, and shoes, he said. The over 40 Knight-volunteers were joined by Bishop José Guadalupe Torres-Campos of Ciudad Juarez and Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso.

The Knights in El Paso were already providing supplies, cooking meals, and paying for a rented shower for migrants in the city. In May, the Knights’ Diocesan Deputy for El Paso sent a request for additional funds which made its way to Simonton, who talked it over and realized that the Supreme Council in Connecticut would have to help.

“[The El Paso Knights] were renting the showers and they were getting donations to cover that expense— and renting those showers was $1,500 a day,” Simonton, a former state deputy in Texas, explained to CNA.

“It was the kind of shower that sits on a trailer, and it was $1,500 a day. So the more we looked into it, it said they were asking for $9,000 to purchase their own portable heated showers. And that would accommodate probably 60 showers per day…it just made sense to purchase the showers.”
Simonton asked the Supreme Council to cover half the cost.

“They liked the idea, but when it got to the table, and the Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson, said ‘Yes we need to help, but we must do more.’ And that’s when Carl Anderson started the initiative to help out Southern border. Without his vision, this would have never happened.”

He said a number of parishes and virtually all the Knight of Columbus councils in El Paso have been busy, especially since January, raising funds for border relief. Council 11926 and Council 2592 in El Paso had raised about $10,000 on their own to help migrants in the city, he said.

“Between the councils and the parishes, they’d already spent $54,000,” Simonton said.

“All the councils were involved in this in El Paso. But their funds were being depleted, so that’s why they came to us for help. And just out of that simple, $9,000 request, has come this tremendous initiative.”

There were about 75 migrants present at the Casa del Migrante Oct. 5— out of an estimated 20,000 migrants currently waiting in Ciudad Juarez.

“To be able to see the little kids, they were so happy to be there at that center. Because we don’t know what they faced two or three days before then, before they got to the center. So it’s sad, but at the same time they;’re happy, they’re all smiles, because soon hopefully they’ll be able to continue their journey with their families.”

To watch the Knights of Columbus from both the Mexico and the United States work together was a “tremendous blessing,” he said.

Possibly as soon as late October, Simonton said the Knights plan to go and provide similar aid at the border city of Laredo, which is across the fence from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, as well as Eagle Pass, Texas and Piedras Negras, Mexico.

The Knights also recently made gifts for humanitarian aid of $100,000 to the Diocese of El Paso and $50,000 to the Diocese of Laredo.

“Let me be clear: this is not a political statement,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in August. “This is a statement of principle. This is about helping people who need our help right now. And it is a natural and necessary extension of our support for refugees across the world.”

Bishop Seitz, along with Catholic leaders of the Dioceses of Las Cruces, San Jose, Victoria, and Ciudad Juarez toured the Casa del Migrante in late September as well as a Ciudad Juarez parish that has been providing aid to migrants.

The Department of Homeland Security announced new Migrant Protection Protocols in January, providing that migrants arriving illegally or without proper documentation “may be returned to Mexico and wait outside of the U.S. for the duration of their immigration proceedings, where Mexico will provide them with all appropriate humanitarian protections for the duration of their stay.”

These policies have meant the flow of migrants into El Paso has largely dried up, as thousands of migrants remain in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed.

The migrants in Mexico are mostly from Central America, but also from other places including Africa, Haiti, Cuba, and some from South America and Europe, the Knights said.

Bishop Seitz told CNA in September that the diocese opened a shelter in Oct. 2018 at the pastoral center, a “purely volunteer response,” to deal with the large number of people passing through the city. The temporary shelter has since closed due to a drop in the number of migrants passing through.

“Right now, we’ve seen a huge drop off in the number of people coming because of enforcement actions in Mexico,” Seitz noted.

“So what’s happening is there’s kind of a bottleneck in Ciudad Juarez, and we estimate that there are up to 20,000 people that are pretty much stuck there. They’re afraid to go home, because that’s where they’re fleeing from…they’re afraid to stay in Mexico, because most of them have faced violence there.”

Robberies and kidnappings among the migrants waiting in Mexico are common, he said.

The HOPE Border Institute, along with the Diocese of El Paso, in July initiated a Border Refugee Assistance Fund to send money to organizations working with migrants and refugees in Juarez.

 

 

 
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/texas-knights-of-columbus-work-with-mexican-knights-to-aid-migrants-72482

US-Mexico border official says migrant crisis ‘at breaking point’

US-Mexico photoCentral American migrants are seen inside an enclosure in El Paso after crossing the border between Mexico and the United States illegally and turning themselves in to request asylum

The US-Mexico border has reached “breaking point”, US officials say, amid an “unprecedented” surge in migrant numbers.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said it is “a matter of time” before tragedy strikes at one of their facilities.

More than 13,000 migrants have been taken into custody along the border just this week, he said.

Most of the migrants entering the US are families or unaccompanied children.

“On Monday and Tuesday, CBP started the day with over 12,000 migrants in our custody,” Mr McAleenan said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“As of this morning, that number was 13,400. A high number for us is 4,000. A crisis level is 6,000. 13,000 is unprecedented.”

During previous immigration surges, many of those seeking entry were single adults, the commissioner said.

But because these are family units and children, they cannot be easily repatriated and instead, are “almost guaranteed to be released to remain in the US indefinitely”.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) still do not have the capacity to detain families and children, officials said.

Mr McAleenan said his agency expects 40,000 children to enter CBP custody in March after entering the US unaccompanied, “in the hands of violent and callous smugglers”.

“We are doing everything we can to simply avoid a tragedy in a CBP facility,” he added. “But with these numbers, with the types of illnesses we’re seeing…I fear that it’s just a matter of time.”

CBP officials are on pace to manage over 100,000 migrants this month – the highest in a month since 2008.

The agency has now redirected 750 agents from their roles at ports of entry to instead support the “humanitarian mission”.

“We have in some sectors an average of 40% of our Border Patrol agents all fully engaged in just the care, transport, and processing of migrants.”

CBP is asking for assistance from other federal agencies including the National Guard and Department of Defence to increase the capacity to process migrants.

Mr McAleenan has also asked for immediate legislative action from Congress so the agency can detain families together. as well as for the government to fix issues in the legal process for asylum seekers.

He noted that it often takes two to five years for asylum seekers to see a judge, and only around 10 to 15% of migrants actually have a legitimate claim.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47736603

Catholic leaders speak out against ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy

imageCredit: Herika Martinez /AFP/ Getty Images

Washington D.C., Mar 14, 2019 / 06:32 pm (CNA).- Catholic leaders released a statement this week in disagreement with the United States’ expansion of a policy that restricts asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We oppose U.S. policy requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while waiting to access protection in the United States. We urge the Administration to reverse this policy, which needlessly increases the suffering of the most vulnerable and violates international protocols,” the statement read.

Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, and Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, released the joint statement on March 13.

First implemented in January, the Migrant Protection Protocols require asylum seekers at the San Ysidro border crossing to remain in Mexico while immigration courts process their case – a procedure that may take years. In previous administrations, asylum seekers were often permitted to remain in the U.S. while awaiting their court dates.

The U.S. government announced Tuesday that the program would now be expanded to the border crossing in Calexico, which is about 120 miles outside of San Diego. Department of Homeland Security officials stated that 240 asylum seekers have been returned to Mexico since the policy was enacted. They anticipate that the number will grow significantly as the program expands.

In February, a lawsuit was introduced in federal court challenging the policy, which is known unofficially as the “Remain in Mexico” policy. The suit claims that the program puts asylum seekers at risk because of Mexico’s dangerous conditions. A federal judge has not yet announced whether an injunction will be granted to block the policy while it is being considered in court.

The Associated Press reported that Mexico’s Foreign Relations and Interior departments objected to the policy update, which they say was made unilaterally by the United States. However, citing “humanitarian reasons,” the departments said a majority of the asylum seekers returned to Mexico will be allowed to stay.

Vasquez and Callahan also voiced opposition to the policy, emphasizing the rights of the people seeking shelter from harsh conditions, especially from the dangers witnessed in Central America.

“We steadfastly affirm a person’s right to seek asylum and find recent efforts to curtail and deter that right deeply troubling. We must look beyond our borders; families are escaping extreme violence and poverty at home and are fleeing for their lives,” the statement read.

The Church leaders reiterated the call of Pope Francis to protect and welcome immigrants and encouraged the government to respond with policies that best promote human dignity.

“Our government must adopt policies and provide more funding that address root causes of migration and promote human dignity and sustainable livelihoods,” they said.

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-leaders-speak-out-against-remain-in-mexico-policy-59110

Marginalised Minorities and Homeless Especially Hard-hit by Mexico’s Quake

by Emilio Godoy
IPS News Agency

Mexico City Nahnu indigenous families Earthquake
A community of 35 Nahñú indigenous families, from the central state of Querétaro, set up a camp in front of the old building that they occupied in the center of Mexico City, which was heavily damaged by the Sept. 19 earthquake. In the photo can be seen the tent that serves as their kitchen and dining room. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

MEXICO CITY, Sep 27 2017 (IPS) – Maricela Fernández, an indigenous woman from the Ñañhú or Otomí people, shows the damages that the Sept. 19 earthquake inflicted on the old house where 10 families of her people were living as squatters, in a neighbourhood in the center-west of Mexico City.

The magnitude 7.1 quake, mainly felt in Mexico City and the neighboring states of Mexico, Morelos and Puebla, caused structural damage to the building, which like many other buildings in the city is in danger of collapsing.

The two-storey building, inhabited by indigenous families since 2007, had already been damaged by the 8.0 magnitude earthquake that claimed at least 10,000 lives on September 19, 1985 in the Mexican capital, exactly 32 years before the one that hit the city a week ago.

Since Sept. 19 “we have been sleeping outside, because the house is badly damaged and may collapse. We do not want to go to a shelter, because they could take the building away from us,” explained Fernández, a mother of two who works as an informal vendor.

The residents of the house, including 16 children, set up a tent on the sidewalk, where they take shelter, cook and sleep while looking after their battered house and belongings inside.

Fernández, a member of the non-governmental “Hadi” (hello in the Ñahñú language) Otomí Indigenous Community, told IPS that humanitarian aid received so far came from non-governmental organisations and individual citizens.

But she criticised what she described as disregard from the authorities towards them and the discrimination exhibited by some neighbors.

“It is unfair that they discriminate against us for being indigenous and poor. Nobody deserves that treatment,” she said.

The earthquake had a death toll of at least 331 people – mostly in Mexico City – while at least 33 buildings collapsed and another 3,800 were partially or totally damaged.

Most schools resumed classes on Monday Sept. 25, as did economic activity and administrative work, but thousands of students and employees are reluctant to return to their educational institutions and workplaces until they have guarantees that the buildings are safe.

A similar situation is faced by another Ñahñú community living in a different rundown, abandoned building in a neighborhood in the centre of the capital, which has a population of nearly nine million people and which exceeds 21 million when adding the greater metropolitan area.

“These are families who, because of their condition, have long occupied spaces in deplorable conditions, squatting for example on properties condemned since the 1985 earthquake…The recent earthquake left the properties uninhabitable. Authorities have told them that they cannot live in those buildings anymore.” — Alicia Vargas

After the earthquake they set up a camp in the street next to the building that is damaged but still standing, where they sleep, cook and eat. Their refusal to move to a shelter is due to the fear of eviction and the loss of their home and belongings….

earthquake exacerbated the needs of vulnerable groups living in Mexico city
The Sept. 19 earthquake exacerbated the needs of vulnerable groups living in Mexico City, including the homeless, such as this woman sleeping on a sidewalk on the south side of the capital. Authorities have diverted assistance for the homeless to earthquake victims. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

Read the complete article: http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/marginalised-minorities-homeless-especially-hard-hit-mexicos-quake/