In the first months of 2021, cold, rain and strong winds mingle with stares, fatigue, camping tents, religious chants and the pockets of migrants full of illusions who pile up a few meters away. of “El Chaparral”. This is the name given to the border post that separates Mexico from the United States, two countries as different as their border cities, Tijuana and San Diego. The inhabitants of this makeshift camp have been forced to make the trip due to the lack of opportunities and the violence in their countries of origin. Adults, families and increasingly children alone constitute the population of around 2,000 people from countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala and, to a lesser extent, Haiti, Cuba and Mexico. himself.
With the victory of Joe Biden, a new migratory flow began to move north, attracted by possible changes in immigration policy. But it quickly became clear that Democratic campaign promises would remain promises, especially given border restrictions amid the pandemic.
Anchored in Tijuana, an enigmatic place which, depending on your point of view, may be where “the homeland begins” or where “Latin America ends”, migrants are still waiting to reach their goal: the “American dream”. A dream which, for the moment, is a nightmare.
From the perspective of migrants, the factors that motivate their displacement are very diverse. From political conflicts, economic needs and violence, to the most recent environmental disasters, increasingly frequent due to climate change.
The United States, however, has a different perspective. After the terrorist attacks of 2001, immigration policies were strengthened and became an instrument of national security. This has resulted in increased restrictions on cross-border mobility and criminalization of irregular migration.
Under the Trump administration, the situation for migrants, both inside and outside the United States, has become even more complicated. Between the construction of a border wall and the cancellation of the Dhaka program (Deferred action for the arrivals of children) which has benefited millions of dreamers, migration policies have taken an exclusive turn.
As if that weren’t enough, in countries that send migrants, coyotes abound. These are people who know the migration route and take advantage of people’s needs. Supported by the anonymity of social networks, they deceive their future customers by offering them new opportunities, an apparent “safe” crossing or false documents to circulate freely on Mexican territory. They even offer facilities to bill for services provided, which can range from US $ 1,000 to US $ 5,000 per person, depending on the route, weather, amenities along the way and the type of crossing.
Many families, encouraged by the false promise of the American Dream and fueled by rumors that unaccompanied minors will not be deported, send their children alone with the illusion of a better future. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as of February, 29,010 cases of unaccompanied children were reported.
Out of the myth
The current migration crisis demonstrates that the change of government in the United States has not meant a substantial transformation of migration issues. Overcrowding at migrant detention centers has increased, despite claims by the new administration that it will protect migrant children. The number of children detained and deported is alarming.
The current criminalization of migration is supported by the health situation. Migrants arriving in the United States are detained and prosecuted under the Code implemented by Trump which states that due to the existence of Covid-19 in Mexico and Canada, there is a serious danger of a new introduction of the disease in the United States.
According to US Customs and Border Protection data, from November to February, 317,590 deportations from northern Mexican states and their transfer, by the National Institute of Migration (INM), to shelters owned by civil society organizations that did not have the basic conditions.
The injustices suffered by migrants during their travels are numerous: arrests on both sides of the border, expulsions, police violence, extortion, rape and even murder. Therefore, in an act of resilience, migrants set up collective defense mechanisms, such as moving in caravans to protect themselves as a group or forming camps to stay together passing through cities like Tijuana, considered as one of the most violent in Mexico.
What will happen to children held in American detention centers or those who are alone in Mexican shelters? Faced with this grim reality, the future of children, who represent more than 60% of the current migratory flow, is unknown.
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