In Search of Mercy and Asylum-1,500 migrants march for their lives toward the United States

Migrantes realizan Viacrucis por México. Credito foto. Luis Gonzalez

On March 25, 2018, at 6:00 a.m. thousands of central Americans, including children, babies, adults, families and even grandparents, embarked on foot on a migrant viacrucis headed to the United States.

Their journey is described as a viacrucis, or way of the cross, comparing the migrants’ arduous journey to the different stages of suffering endured by Jesus Christ on his way to Calvary.

They are expected to arrive in the center of Mexico in approximately 30 days.

Henry Romero / Reuters. Un ‘vía crucis’ de refugiados atravesará México en Semana Santa

The director of Pueblos Sin Fronteras and Coordinator of the Migrant Viracrucis, Irineo Mújica, said that the Viacrucis, includes displaced members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTTI) from central American communities, 150 unaccompanied minors, 30 babies, some of whom are breastfeeding, adolescents and elderly among the journeyers who are estimated to total around 1,500. The pilgrimage started in the Mexican southern border city of Tapachula with the purpose of arriving in Mexico and the United States in search of asylum.

One of the coordinators of this group, Irineo Múgica, explained that this odyssey is carried out every year during Holy Week, as migrants take on their own cross in faith as they pass through Mexico.

Along the way, they suffer many hardships, from theft to even death. Women are frequently raped but keep quiet out of fear. The Mexican state governments have vowed to respect migrant rights, but migrants have told of countless cases where those who ought to protect them have joined in the abuse.

Mujeres, niños y mayores muestran el rostro más amargo de caravana migrante by EFE, Nuria Monreal Delgado

Who will defend migrants from aggression? Left with impossible choices, they endure silently for fear of repercussions.

In Tapachula, their point of departure, the migrants gather hungry and thirsty under a scorching sun. The caravans, as they are called, include many young children who are also victims of hunger, thirst, and heat.

What the mothers really want, is to find a job to provide for their children and to work without fear for their lives. They seek asylum and refuge from lives without human rights.

They are migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. They will stop in the coastal municipalities of Huixtla, Mapastepec and Pijijiapan where some will take the train to continue on to Oaxaca, Veracruz, Puebla and then to the north of the country.

Theirs is a journey without prospects and filled with risks.

Parte III: La ruta del peligro por Steven Dudley

More than 200 mothers and their children embarked on the journey hoping for Mexican solidarity and support. In Guadalajara, Mexican organizations and individuals waited for them with food, water, medical care, and transportation.

Migrantes de la caravana repudian a Trump en México Por: El Debate

Six large buses, aligned in a caravan, awaited some of them. These were generously secured by private donations from Mexico and the United States with the intention of sparing mothers and young children from having to ride atop The Beast, the train ride of death.

A bordo de ‘La Bestia’, el tren que trae a inmigrantes al país de la oportunidades. Noticias Univision.

The migrants are headed to the border with the United States, where some will surrender to the authorities to request asylum. They are escaping human rights violations, including, gender violence, political and military violence, gang violence, illiteracy, lack of adequate medical care and lack of work and living wages to support their children. Women and teens are in extreme danger of violence, abuse, and death. They know that an anti-immigrant climate awaits them in the United States, but they feel they have no choice.

What do they want Mexico and the US to know?

  • The migrants want Mexico and the United States to recognize their rights as refugees according to international laws.
  • They want both countries to know they seek protection and they are not criminals.
  • They want to shed light on the humanitarian crisis that exists in their countries of Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.
  • They want Mexico and the United States to realize the degree of crisis that they face every day in Central America.
  • They ask for respect regarding their rights; that they listen to them, and that those who need protection, receive it.

The migrants entered Mexico by the Suchiate River, which divides Mexico and Guatemala, located about 45 kilometers from this city. They began their pilgrimage at 6:00 in the morning from the Miguel Hidalgo Central Park in Chiapas. Hanging on to homemade crosses and marching shoulder to shoulder they encouraged each other with a chant:

“Migrants are not criminals. We are workers. We are international workers. Why do you kill us? Why do you assassinate us? When we are the hope of Latin America!”

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Impossible Choices-Request for Asylum & Family Separation

Photo: John Moore/Getty Images. Published in Politica para Mi.

After one month and one day of travel on foot, bus, train, and multiple shelters stop, the caravan of migrants seeking asylum to the United States completed their journey from Tapachula in the frontier with Guatemala, to the border of Mexico with the United States.

Correspondents from Noticiero Univision have been following the migrants and reporting on their journey. This Saturday, Univision reported that the last buses had arrived. Migrants were very tired yet willing and prepared to surrender to the United States authorities this Sunday.

A caravan coordinator, named Alex, told Univision that “migrants do not want to invade the United States as President Trump suggested, and a confrontation with the national guard would be unnecessary. They come to ask for asylum, a legal process that is founded in the law. It is not a crime to seek asylum when you surrender at the port of entry.”

Also meeting the migrants in Tijuana were a score of immigration lawyers from various parts of the United States who traveled to the area to advise migrants before surrendering. About 40 lawyers specializing in immigration law, crossed to Tijuana, Mexico, to meet with Central American migrants.

Nicole Ramos, an immigration attorney at the site, told Univision that most migrants wanted to know what detention would be like; who is at risk of being arrested; what happens with family separation, and how to prepare for possible separation from their children.

“We put our faith in God. And he will decide,” said a migrant woman while holding a small child.

Univision reported that there are 200 mothers and children waiting in line for immigration agents and that President Trump warned that if anyone presents a false or unsupported case for asylum they would face a trial, and be prosecuted for the maximum length of sentences.

The government will not extend the welcome mat to the Central Americans, stated Univision.

Attorney Erika Pinheiro told that the majority of women and children waiting to request asylum needed guidance to prepare mentally, and psychologically for detention.

Kevin de Leon (D) Senator from the state of California, defended the migrants’ right to request asylum arguing that in our country the laws are very clear on the subject, “if you are a victim of political persecution, or violence, you are eligible to apply for political asylum status.”

The author of the sanctuary laws of California, Senator de Leon told Univision that fear tactics are being used to as a tool to deny asylum.

Earlier in February, California State Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) released the following statement relating to some recent developments in immigration enforcement:

· Tearing children from the arms of their mothers do not reflect the values of our nation or who we are as Americans.

· Children, like the 7-year-old girl taken from her mother at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, are being used as pawns by the Trump administration to discourage undocumented entries into the United States.

· The mother and her daughter fled violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Mexico and surrendered to immigration authorities at the U.S. border right near where I grew up. They were seeking asylum.

· While her mother is still detained in San Diego, the little girl is now being held at a youth center in Chicago thousands of miles away.

· The mother could hear her daughter screaming from another room, ‘Mommy, don’t let them take me!’

· Compassionless and callousness do not begin to describe the pain being inflicted on honest, hardworking families by President Trump and the zealots driving his immigration policies. This type of inhumane treatment, resembling that of a rogue nation, is now public policy for the United States of America.

Echoing Senator De Leon’s views, Christian Ramirez, who is running for city council of San Diego, argued that “we have a moral obligation to ensure that any person who is requesting refugee protection, can present their case before an immigration judge and that the authorities will fairly evaluate each case, before marking them as delinquents.”

The ACLU is also taking steps to fight against family separation at the border.

Marcia Facundo writes in Politica Para Mi, that the ACLU asked a judge in California to declare family separation an illegal practice. On Friday, the ACLU, sued the government of President Donald Trump for its policy of widely separating the families of immigrants seeking asylum in the United States.

Rex Huppke, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune stated that as part of the sworn statements, Michelle Brane, an attorney and director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission identified separation of parents from children at the border in at least 429 cases without allegation or showing that they had presented a danger to their child.

“You are the worst foster parents in the world!” US Govt accused of losing 1500 Children

Photo credits. Politica para Mi. “Gobierno desconoce el paradero de unos 1,500 niños inmigrantes” (Government does not know the whereabouts of 1,500 children).

“You are the worst foster parents in the world,” accused North Dakota Senator (D) Heidi Keitkamp during a testimony hearing before the Senate, when the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) admitted having lost track of nearly 1,500 unaccompanied minors after placing them with sponsors late last year.

Federal agency says it lost track of 1,475 migrant children. — boys wait in line to make a phone call as they are joined by hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool, File)

Between October and December 2017, 7,635 children who crossed the border alone into the United States, were placed with sponsors throughout the country, reported Noticiero Telemundo, on April 27th, 2018.

From last October until the end of the year, officials from the HHS refugee office attempted to contact 7,635 children and their sponsors. A report from Steven Wagner, interim assistant secretary of the HHS Administration for Children and Families, reveals that the agency learned of the disappearance of hundreds of immigrant children after making calls to the people who took responsibility for them when they were released from custody.

1,475 children could not be located.

Most of the children came from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, seeking refuge from drug cartels, gang violence, and domestic abuse.

From these calls, officials learned that:

6,075 children stayed with their sponsors

28 escaped

5 were deported

52 moved to live with someone else

1,475 children were missing

Agency officials could not determine their whereabouts.

(Photo Credit: John Moore/Getty Images). What You Need to Know About the U.S.-Mexico Border Crisis by Larry Ladutke. Salvadorian immigrant Stefany Marjorie, 8, holds her doll Rodrigo in Mission, Texas.

The report on the “Oversight of HHS Efforts to Protect Unaccompanied Children from Human Trafficking,” revealed that the government does not have a method to follow up on the whereabouts of immigrant children who enter the country alone.

Pro-immigrant groups are extremely concerned.

Maria Sosa, an immigrant’s rights activist from the organization, Fiel, told Noticiero Univision that the government should take more responsibility to ensure that these children are in the right hands:

“We are waiting for an explanation from the government. We want to know, what happened to the children, and why did the government not follow up on their welfare? Many times the government does not visit the homes of the sponsors where they place the children. This hurts the children in many ways. Regarding the immigration process, the children would like to fix their immigration status but this depends on showing up for important immigration court dates. Many of the youths miss court dates because they live in the dark. They have no idea where they are or what they are supposed to do. How can they be responsible for knowing to go to court and when to show up? They entered as minors and so they cannot be made responsible for their own self-care.”

The William Wilberforce Act of 2008 states that immigrant children traveling alone cannot be deported immediately. Instead, children must be placed under the care of HHS while they are processed in immigration courts.

Central American Children’s Testimony Humanizes Debate Around Unaccompanied Minors.Written by Wendy Feliz JULY 30, 2014. Mayeli Hernandez, 12, and her younger sister left Honduras because they were afraid of the violence and because her younger sister suffered from epilepsy.

The report, part of Wagner’s testimony for the Senate, admitted that once the children are handed over to a sponsor, the custody of the Refugee Office with the minor ends, with a file remaining open for only 30 days.

A subcommittee on National Security of the Senate has been investigating the situation of minors after the discovery of a network of labor trafficking, in which eight Guatemalan adolescents were forced to work in egg farms in Marion County.

The office of refugees has been urged to correct the serious deficiencies with the system and design a step by step plan to monitor what happens to the children and to present a report on solutions as early as next week.

Sister Norma Pimentel from Catholic Charities is advocating on the children’s behalf. “We must protect these children who are so vulnerable and who can be taken and exploited.”

Sister Norma S. Pimentel (MA ‘95), executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. Photo. Loyola University, Chicago

Activists in the pro-immigrant communities believe Trump’s government is responsible for losing the children after handing them over to sponsors and failing to follow-up. The risk is that they may have ended up in sex traffic rings, exploited, and forced into labor.

This lack of care, regard and humanitarian efforts to help these children goes against every value that the United States is supposed to stand for. As caravans of migrants head to the border in a desperate request for asylum what is to happen to the children? The families that have escaped persecution, pain, death, come to us for help, for refuge and compassion. What awaits them? A militarized border and possible traumatic separation of already suffering families, from their children. If this happens, where will these children go? To “sponsors?” How would they ever reunite with their parents? What would become of them? Placing them with sponsors and forgetting them after 30 days is irresponsible and shameful. Already missing, 1500 minors.

This is not right. This is not Us.