Things That Matter

After Being Denied Asylum By The US Some Migrants Are Returning Home With Mexico’s Help

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There have been nearly 17,000 returns by asylum seekers to Mexico from the United States under the “Remain In Mexico” program. These nearly 17,000 people may wait months or even longer for their claims to work their way through the backlogged US immigration courts.

And under a recent agreement with Washington to head off threatened US tariffs on Mexican goods, Mexico agreed to an expansion of the program to other border points beyond the three cities in which it was already in place.

In conjunction with the US’ ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, Mexico has started assisting migrants with transport back home.

Credit: @VOANews / Twitter

The Mexican government unveiled on Tuesday a new program to transport asylum seekers turned back by U.S. border officials back to their home countries in Central America.

In a statement, the Foreign Relations Department described it as the beginning of a “temporary program of voluntary return” for migrants in northern Mexico who wish to go home.

It said 69 people — 40 Hondurans, 22 Guatemalans and seven Salvadorans — were involved, and 66 of those were returnees under the U.S. program.

Carrying their belongings in plastic bags, adults and children lined up to board the bus in the morning.

One woman cradled her daughter on her lap and gazed out the window as they prepared to depart.

U.S. asylum cases can take months or years to be decided because of a massive backlog of immigration court cases. Even hearings can take months to be scheduled.

Credit: @thenation / Twitter

The migrants sent home on Tuesday had lived in Ciudad Juarez for as long as half a year while waiting for judges to rule on their asylum cases, Mexico’s migration institute (INM) said in a statement.

Some people had asylum hearings scheduled as far out as September 2020 and many were mothers with children, INM added.

Honduran migrant Angela Flores said she suffered during the wait in Ciudad Juarez, including extortion by police. “We wanted to go to the United States for a better future for our children… we’ve suffered humiliation, ugly things,” she said, without providing details.

Migrant advocates, as well as asylum officers, have slammed US immigration policy for the potential to put migrants at risk by sending them for extended periods to live in some of Mexico’s most violent cities. As well, rights groups worry that migrants who give up on their asylum claims could be sent back to the same dangerous situations they fled.

Meanwhile, vulnerable immigrants and refugees are being forced to stay in some of Mexico’s most dangerous cities.

Credit: @SFH9770 / Twitter

Cities like Juarez and Tijuana can be dangerous places with high homicide rates. Farther east along the border, in the Gulf coast state of Tamaulipas, drug cartels have historically been known to target migrants for kidnapping, extortion and murder.

Nuevo Laredo, in Tamaulipas across from Laredo, Texas, is one of three new cities to begin receiving returnees from the United States.

Selee said asylum seekers often find it hard to get by for long periods in Mexico while they wait for their claims to be decided, so it is not surprising some would want to leave.

Of the migrants returning on Tuesday, several declined interviews out of fear for their lives.

They said they had turned in criminals, putting their lives at risk if they were to be identified.

Another migrant said she had fled an abusive husband, which in the past has been grounds to be granted asylum in the United States.

READ: Trump Administration To Resume Controversial And Damaging ‘Remain In Mexico’ Policy For Asylum Seekers

What You Need To Know About The Magic Mushroom Tourism Craze In Oaxaca

Culture

What You Need To Know About The Magic Mushroom Tourism Craze In Oaxaca

For almost 70 years, since Maria Sabina, also known as Santa Sabina, spread the culture around the ritualistic consumption of magic mushrooms in the Oaxaca highlands, the world has been fascinated by these special fungi. The region near Huautla de Jimenez, particularly places like San Jose del Pacifico, has since been swarmed with tourists in the months between July and October, both from inner Mexico and from overseas, who want to experienced the altered states of consciousness brought by one of nature’s most powerful secrets. 

So any story about Oaxacan magic mushrooms has to start with the legendary Maria Sabina, the godmother of all things trippy.

Credit: Giphy. @Hamiltons

Maria Sabina was a Mazatec curandera, or witchdoctor. She was well versed in the ancient arts of magic mushrooms and introduced the Western world to their consumption. She soon became a magnet for the rich and powerful who wanted to taste her psilocybin mushrooms. She was born in 1894 and died in 1985, so she saw the world change dramatically during her lifetime. 

She allowed foreigners into her healing evenings, known as veladas.

Credit: YouTube / Vice

She became legendary, as City A.M. reported in 2018: “It was here that, in 1955, R Gordon Wasson, a vice-president of JP Morgan and amateur ethnomycologist, consumed psilocybin mushrooms in a ceremony presided over by the healer Maria Sabina. The article Wasson subsequently wrote up for Life magazine – ‘Seeking the Magic Mushroom’ – transformed Sabina into a reluctant icon and caught the attention of scientists including Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary”. What followed is an enduring cult following of the plant. 

Mushroom tourism got a boost in the 1960s due to the high profile of some of Sabina’s visitors, who included The Beatles.

As EFE News Service reported back in 2007: “In the 1960s, the ‘high priestess of the mushrooms’ popularized this corner of Mexico located between the capital and Oaxaca city, a place visited by the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan at the height of the psychedelic era”. We mean, the place has basically been a Hall of Fame! 

Consuming magic mushrooms is an ancient, ritualistic indigenous tradition that remains officially illegal.

Credit: High Times

Spanish friars first reported the use of psychedelic mushrooms in the region. Though magic mushrooms are illegal today, the authorities tend to turn a blind eye. This is due to the centrality to the customs and traditions of the Zapotecs, the area’s dominant indigenous group. Children as young as six participate in the ritualistic ingestion of shrooms.

However, tourism disrupts this long lasting understanding and ritual has turned into business.

Credit: YouTube. Vice

If you decide to try them for yourself, beware as the region is now swarmed with fake magic mushrooms offered by scammers. Anyway, San Jose del Pacifico is a natural joyita in itself, and you might get high just by taking in the landscape!

The state induced by the mushrooms is supposed to get you in touch with nature: with the soil below your feet and the celestial bodies above your head.

Credit: Giphy. Anonymous. 

According to man named Andres Garcia, he was introduced to the ritual ingestion of mushrooms by his grandfather. Just outside of Huautla, the man experienced mushrooms several times. He told High Times: “The first time I tried mushrooms I was 7 years old. And each time after that was different; each time there were messages and messages. Communication with the earth, the universe, the moon, especially the energy of the moon. The mushroom shows you everything—about your errors, your problems, all the good you’ve done, all the bad you’ve done. It’s something personal.”

Even though mushrooms are widely available in Oaxaca they are not for everyone, specially not for those who disrespect the ritual and want to do mushrooms just for some mindless fun.

Credit: Musrooms-in-Oaxaca. Digital image. Own Mexico

The magic mushroom tourism industry has brought an steady income to Huautla de Jimenez, the original stomping grounds of Maria Sabina. As reported by Juan Ramon Peña in EFE News Services, “visitors are greeted when they get off the bus by boys who offer to help them found the hallucinogenic fungi”. The wide availability of mushrooms is un secreto a voces. However, each person’s brain chemistry is different and you need to have an experienced guide to help you on a mushroom-induced trip. 

And tourism has put the sustainability of the species at stake.

Credit: User comment on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_XnzIYmUYw

The lack of regulation translates into indiscriminate picking. Of course, traditional owners of the land are affected and that is just not fair. 

Magic mushrooms have a good rep, but they are also unpredictable.

Credit: 2037. Digital image. The Guardian.

Several recent studies indicate that magic mushrooms could have medical benefits in people suffering from mental health issues. As reported by The Guardian earlier this year in relation to a study conducted at Imperial College London: “Magic mushrooms may effectively ‘reset’ the activity of key brain circuits known to play a role in depression, the latest study to highlight the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics suggests”. However, this study was done in a controlled environment. Doing mushrooms can have unpredictable effects that some people have described as a “bad trip”

Note: the consumptions of magic mushrooms is illegal throughout Mexico and only specific Indigenous groups can consume them for spiritual purposes. We do not condone the consumption of illegal substances. This article is for informational purposes only.

Thanks To Trump’s ‘Remain In México’ Policy, A Man And His Kid Were Kidnapped Hours After Returning To Mexico

Things That Matter

Thanks To Trump’s ‘Remain In México’ Policy, A Man And His Kid Were Kidnapped Hours After Returning To Mexico

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It seems like every day we hear another tragic story about a family being denied entry to the US, or a archer dying with his daughter as they attempt to cross the Rio Grande. The news coming from the US-Mexico border is largely framed in Trump’s quest to literally seal it off from the rest of the world. 

What we lose in that narrative are the stories that paint the truly disturbing picture of US complacency in the crimes that are being perpetrated against the people we are sending back to Mexico as they await their court dates. Many of these people are fleeing extreme violence and poverty in their native countries and yet the US is forcing entire families to wait in what they themselves call “no-go zones” — areas that are so dangerous the US advises it’s own citizens to avoid all travel to.

Trump’s ‘Migrant Protection Protocols’ – commonly known as ‘Remain in Mexico’ – is jeopardizing people’s lives. 

According to a report by VICE News, a man and his family were kidnapped hours after being turned back to Mexico. 

After being turned away by US immigration officials, under the guise of Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, a man identified as David says cartel members surrounded David and a dozen other migrants at a bus station. The exact same bus station the US border patrol had just dropped them off at. 

David is among the estimated 42,000 asylum seekers who’ve been returned to Mexico in recent months under President Trump’s new asylum policies. The Trump administration calls the policy “Migrant Protection Protocols,” but far from offering protection, the policy has led to a brutal wave of kidnappings in some of Mexico’s most dangerous border cities.

“They are sending them to a place that is too dangerous,” Laura, David’s sister, told VICE News. “Why are they doing this? Why, if Mexico is a place that is so dangerous?”

The man and his child were forced into trucks and taken away. 

David told VICE News that he and another dozen or so asylum seekers who had been returned that day to Mexico arrived at the bus station in Nuevo Laredo, a group of 20 men were already waiting for them. Immediately, the men forced David, his child, and the other migrants into trucks, as an immigration official looked their way but did nothing. 

And according to “David,” an immigration official looked their way and did nothing to help. 

David said the kidnappers took his few belongings, including the paperwork U.S. Customs and Border Protection had given him. Without it, he and his child can’t enter the U.S. to attend their hearing in December.

The kidnappers took a dozen pictures of each of the migrants who were being held, and they took notes on everyone — their full names, where they were from, their family members. The cartel was also holding at least 20 other men, plus dozens of children and women, who “were treated like pieces of meat,” David said.

They separated the women from the men, and beat any of the men who turned to look. David said one man tried to escape and they shot him dead.

The cartels know these are some of the most vulnerable people and they’re ready to make money off their suffering.

Powerful criminal organizations have seized on Trump’s changes, targeting asylum seekers with family in the U.S. by holding them hostage until their relatives come up with thousands of dollars to pay for their release.

And the US government is letting it happen.

In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, across from El Paso, Texas, more than 6,000 people are registered as waiting in line just to receive court dates. Many are at shelters run by charities where small children have been sleeping for months on exercise mats. Shelters have been attacked by gunmen, and migrants have been kidnapped by human traffickers as they wait for their names to be called by the U.S. Often, only 10 to 20 families a day are interviewed.

At a migrant camp on the Mexico side of the Gateway International Bridge, which links Matamoros to Brownsville, Texas, migrants don’t have access to showers and resort to bathing in the Rio Grande River, said Dani Marrero Hi, an outreach coordinator at the Texas Civil Rights Project. Earlier this week, a 17-year-old girl had to be rescued after she couldn’t swim against the current, she said.

The Hispanic Caucus wasn’t mincing words, saying they completely blame the administration for this tragedy. 

Several non profit organizations and members of Congress have admonished the administration for acting without care for any of these people’s lives and safety.

Yet a recent Supreme Court ruling empowers Trump to take his cruel ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy even further.

The decision allows the Trump administration to enforce a new rule sharply limiting who can apply for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. While a legal challenge proceeds, Central Americans who cross through Mexico won’t be able to claim refugee status in the U.S. unless they previously applied for protection from one of the countries they passed through.

After the court decision was announced, the White House issued a statement saying it allowed the administration to make “needed fixes to the broken asylum system,” adding, “This greatly helps build on the progress we’ve made addressing the crisis at our southern border and will ultimately make American communities safer.”

The latest blow to people fleeing violence and political unrest arrives amid President Donald Trump’s push to drive down border crossings. Those numbers have already plunged after he persuaded Mexico under threat of tariffs to send more than 25,000 national guard troops to its borders and to receive tens of thousands of asylum seekers awaiting court hearings in the U.S.