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Editor's Note: Alice Driver is a freelance journalist and translator, whose work focuses on migration, human rights and gender equality. It is based in Mexico City. Driver is the author of “More or Less Dead: Feminicide, Haunting, and the Ethics of Representation in Mexico.” In this column, Driver uses only the names, so as not to risk any future cases of asylum. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.
(CNN) - Hundreds of African migrants camped in front of the facilities of the 21st Century Migration Station in Tapachula, Mexico as a protest against their inability to legally leave the country.
Sani, a Muslim man from Ghana and a member of the LGBTQ community, said he fled his home country after his partner was stoned to death and his house was set on fire with his mother inside. "My final destination is Canada," he said.
Sani said he preferred to apply for asylum in Canada because he felt that the United States, given the actions of President Donald Trump, would not treat someone who was a member of the LGBTQ community and a Muslim with justice and equality. (Because many migrants were concerned about their security and the protection of their identity as they move forward in the asylum process, respondents agreed to be identified only by their names).
For a long time, both the United States and Canada have been shelters for exiles, and have offered a home to those who are persecuted for their faith or identity, to those fleeing from injustice and the threat of death. But every time the Trump administration exercises its power to attack a new group of people - the LGBTQ community, migrants - these actions damage our reputation in the world and endanger justice for all. Members of the United States Congress should encourage Trump to work with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and thus create a binational solution for African migrants fleeing persecution. That way, the lives of migrants do not become other victims of our racist immigration policies.
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In May, Trump threatened with tariffs on Mexican products to pressure López Obrador to reduce migration through Mexico. And in June, African and Haitian immigrants, who requested the exit permit that would allow them to travel through Mexico legally, and, eventually, cross the border, found that immigration officials did not process their application and did not explain why They could not receive an exit permit. In their current situation, migrants claim that they cannot legally leave Tapachula and are trapped in the city with no promise of housing, food or work permits - a situation that has forced them to live on the street. And now, hundreds of Africans cannot travel to the United States or Canada to apply for asylum or legally return to their countries of origin.
African migrants discuss with the police that guard the 21st Century Migration Station, in Tapachula, Mexico. Migrants, some of whom speak English, French and / or Portuguese, are frustrated by the lack of help they have received to understand how to legally move forward and leave Mexico.
Where USA It does not take the initiative - on issues ranging from respect for the human rights of migrants to the discriminatory treatment of the LGBTQ community in the US - Canada does. For example, in August, Trump announced a new policy that allows the indefinite detention of migrant children, and proposed a rule to allow companies hired by the federal government, "organized for a religious purpose," to discriminate because they are part of the community. LGBTQ. Although Canada's migrant detention system is far from perfect, the news of the death of immigrant children in US detention centers. UU. and the separation of families through Trump's policies have had an impact on citizens of other countries. Many African migrants trapped in Mexico believe that the nation that will offer them justice and equality is now Canada and not the United States.
Many of the migrants have faced a long and dangerous journey. Many of them flew to Brazil or Ecuador and then took buses or walked part of their journey through Central America, fleeing violent ethnic conflicts in their home countries. According to some of the migrants with whom I spoke, the trip costs approximately US $ 4,500 per person.
Life is a challenge for those who are now forced to live in tents in Tapachula. Every day at dawn, Brown, 30, of Cameroon, wakes up among dozens of African migrants when they leave their tents, collect firewood and prepare to cook on the street in front of the 21st Century facilities in Tapachula. 21st century serves as a detention center and as a point to process immigration paperwork. Not surprisingly, in recent weeks, it has also been a meeting point for African migrants protesting recent and severe migration measures.
Recently, in the brutal midday heat, migrants bathed their children with plastic buckets while the Mexican National Guard watched in silence. As part of López Obrador's agreement with Trump, to reduce the number of migrants crossing from Mexico to the United States, the Mexican president sent some 6,000 National Guard soldiers to the border with Guatemala.
A migrant from Angola, who is six months pregnant, cooks in the street in front of the 21st Century immigration station.
During his presidential campaign, Trump promised that Mexico would pay for the wall along the border between the United States and Mexico. Although that has not been fulfilled (the wall, apart from the 80 kilometers of replacement barriers, has not yet been built) after the threat of Trump's tariffs, the United States and Mexico signed a joint declaration for which Mexico agreed to take “ unprecedented measures to increase law enforcement to curb irregular migration, ”according to a statement from the State Department.
Since then, many migrants have said that officials of the National Migration Institute of Mexico have not responded to their request for an exit permit.
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The agency confirmed that immigrants protesting outside the premises require a permit to travel through Mexico, but said authorities had approached migrants to review their cases, however, they "refused to receive help," according to a statement published on Tuesday.
Brown fled a situation in Cameroon in which government forces fought against separatist groups and in the process killed civilians indiscriminately. Brown took his phone from his pocket to show me a video of the bodies in his town, people who had clearly been killed while running for their lives, with terror still visible on their faces. I had to look away. Then he said: “Trump is a crazy president. He doesn't care about human beings. He cares for himself. ” While African migrants blame Mexican immigration officials for their situation, they see Trump's tariff threats against Mexico as the source of the changes in the exit permit processing.
Martha, 43, from Angola, showed me the little green tent where she, her seven children and her husband had been living for the past month and a half. Martha, like many other African migrants, said he hoped to apply for asylum in Canada because he felt it was a safer country for a family than the United States.
This is the new perception that many immigrants now have from the United States, and it is dangerous. The world is clearly observing the way the Trump administration treats Muslims, immigrants, women and the LGBTQ community. Our history as a country that offers justice and equality to all is evaporating rapidly. Unless Trump and López Obrador come together to find a plan that helps African migrants seeking asylum, many lives will remain at stake.