Things That Matter

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

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

Mexico is Turning Old Factories Into Shelters to Help Stranded Asylum Seekers at the Border

Things That Matter

Mexico is Turning Old Factories Into Shelters to Help Stranded Asylum Seekers at the Border

A huge story that we’ve been following all year has to do with the thousands of asylum seekers at the border of Mexico and the United States. These migrants have traveled mostly by foot over hundreds of miles from Central America in order to find safety away from dangerous homes. However, instead of being able to seek asylum in America a decades’ old process implemented by the US government these South American immigrants have been stuck in limbo at the border. 

The radical changes to the asylum process brought on by the Trump administration has left these individuals with no home and no hope for one in the near future. Instead, the Border Security Agency has kept thousands of asylum seekers in captivity. These detentions facilities are over packed, lacking basic amenities and separate children from their families. In short, America has truly abandoned these people. However, Mexico is working to clean up the mess left behind by the Trump Administration. 

The Mexican government is converting empty factories near the border to house asylum seekers turned away from the US. 

Twitter / @LatinoUSA

In a report by “Mother Jones,” we are now getting our first look at these facilities. Converted from an old maquiladora, the Leona Vicario Migrant Integration Center now acts as a shelter along the Mexican border. The center opened its doors about 4 months ago as the first of many shelters planned by the Mexican government in order to house displaced migrants. Currently, Leona Vicario Migrant Center provides a temporary home for 600 Central Americans. 

Converting these factories is meant to combat an issue created by the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols program. 

Twitter / @HispanicCaucus

Also known as “Remain in Mexico,” under this new program, asylum seekers are denied entry into the United States and are instead forced to stay in Mexico during their asylum proceedings. The process of seeking asylum can take many months or even years, leaving these migrants without a home or resolution. Since the Migrant Protection Protocols program was began back in January 2019, more than 50,000 asylum seekers have been sent back to Mexico.

The decision to create residential housing out of these old factories came after President Trump threatened Mexico with steep tariffs if the government continued to allow asylum seekers to reach the border. These tariffs would devastate the Mexican economy so their government conceded to the USA’s demands. “Any expense we incur in building shelters like this one will be far less than what the tariffs would cost us,” Mexico’s Labor Undersecretary, Horacio Duarte Olivares, said at Leona Vicario’s opening ceremony.

Though Leona Vicario is obviously a re-purposed factory, there are clear signs that the space is attempting to mimic homes that these asylum seekers have lost.

Twitter / @DocBearOMD

A mural of Central American and Mexican flags adorns one of the center’s walls. This image is bordered by colorful hand prints from Leona Vicario’s first residents in an attempt to bring some color to the concrete floors and cinder block walls. The facility managers’ of the center attempt to bring some joy to the lives of the asylum seekers by organizing holiday celebrations and different workshops. 

About half of the center’s population is made up of children of various ages. A makeshift nursery is communally watched over by the mothers of the migrant group. In another room, a temporary school has been established to help supplement the education that the children are being deprived of. 

Outside the building, a giant camo-painted food truck is run by members of the Mexican military in order to provide meals to those housed at the facility. They even have a second tortilladora truck to pump out the thousands of tortillas eaten every day. 

Centers like Leona Vicario are still an experiment and are not meant to be a long term solution for these families who are returned to Mexico. 

Twitter / @MotherJones

When migrants first arrive at the border, they are usually held for a few weeks before being returned to Mexican land. Usually, they are not even aware of what is happening and still think they are in the United States. The hope with centers like Leona Vicario is that asylum seekers who are returned to Mexico can acclimate themselves to their new surroundings. These centers are only meant to house each group of migrants for two weeks at a time. That is how long it usually takes for the Mexican government to find jobs for the adults. However, they are still allowed to stay a few additional weeks in order to get their affairs in order. The goal is successfully getting the migrant on their feet while waiting out their asylum process. 

The Mexican government is opening two more migrant integration centers by the end of this month with a forth planned in the near future. It isn’t an ideal situation but it’s a far cry from the cages and foil blankets of the detention facilities in the United States. Most importantly, families can stay together and that means everything in uncertain times like these. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUh_wCbaGxo&t=6s

Vogue Mexico Teamed Up With British Vogue To Show The Beauty Of ‘Muxes’ An Ancestral Gender-Fluid Indigenous Community

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Vogue Mexico Teamed Up With British Vogue To Show The Beauty Of ‘Muxes’ An Ancestral Gender-Fluid Indigenous Community

voguemexico/ Instagram

Sometimes, fashion is more than just a mirror of society. In a few instances, the fashion industry has actually been responsible for reshaping reality rather than just mirroring it. One way it does this is by breaking taboos and introducing marginalized ideas into the mainstream. The current visibility of transgender people is a development that the fashion world has embraced in recent years. Granted, fashion’s focus on the topic is, more often than not, on the “blurring of traditional lines between genders” to explore androgyny, but many designers and brands are currently emphasizing on a ‘gender-neutral’ and non-binary ethos. The editorial side of fashion however, has been a bit slow to embrace representation and support genderqueer people—but this month, Vogue Mexico and Latin-America, in collaboration with British Vogue, are leading the charge, by dedicating their cover story to a small group of people in Juchitán Oaxaca who seek to live outside of binary labels: Los Muxes.

Vogue Mexico and Latin-America has proven to be the most ‘woke’ publication of Conde Nast’s portfolio this year.

instagram @voguemexico

 The magazine has doubled up on its efforts for representation and diversity. Just this year they made history by featuring an indigenous woman, Yalitza Aparicio, on the cover of a magazine for the very first time, ever. A few months later they featured four Afro-Latinas on their cover and opened the floor to discussion about what being Afro-Latina means. Just last month they honored indigenous women of different parts of Latin America for their 20th anniversary issue. And now, the magazine is shining a light on a centuries-old non-binary indigenous community of rural Mexico, and introducing them to the world. 

In recent years, Oaxaca has become somewhat of a trendy destination. 

instagram @oaxtravel

The Zapotec state is a multicultural hub in the south of Mexico known for its delicious climate, rich food and complex history. The people of Oaxaca have fought hard to keep a lot of their centuries-old traditions and beliefs alive, and one of these beliefs —or rather, a group of people— is called “muxes.”

In Juchitán, a small indigenous town in Southern Oaxaca, a community of individuals known as ‘Muxes’, seek to live free of binary labels “male” and “female.”

instagram @johnohono

 The word muxes also spelled muxhes in some instances, comes from the Spanish word for woman “mujer,” and it generally represents people who are assigned male at birth, but identify as non-binary. Muxes have their own gender identity, different from what the West has traditionally dubbed to be female and male. 

The iterations among the Muxe community and their self-identifications vary – some identify as male but are female-expressing, while others identify as female and are more closely associated with Western culture’s understanding of transgender. In their culture, the term “third gender” might be more suitable to define Muxes. 

Muxes are ‘dual’ beings, they don’t believe in being ‘female’ or ‘male’, they simply are.

Instagram @salvadorconpan

“To be muxe is a duality. We carry out the role depending on the circumstances, sometimes I might seem like a man, and others like a woman,” says Pedro Enriquez Godínez Gutiérrez, a person known locally in Juchitán as “La Kika,” in an interview with Vogue Mexico. Apart from being a muxe, he’s the Director of Sexual Diversity of Juchitán Town Hall. 

Muxes have lived in Juchitan since pre-hispanic times, there are a few indigenous legends that explain their origins and give a faith to the antiquity of their existence.

instagram @voguemexico

There are two legends in Juchitán, that recount the origin of Muxes. One says that San Vicente Ferrer, the holy patron of Juchitán, had a pocket with holes in it, from which they fell out of. Another version says that as he walked the earth, San Vicente Ferrer, always carried three bags: one with male seeds, another loaded with female seeds, and a third that contained both seeds, mixed up. This last bag was the one that broke as he walked through Juchitán, and that is why there are so many muxes there. 

The people of Juchitán are a sort of pre-hispanic family. In this town the women are as strong as the men and muxes are as respected as both men and women. Ironically, the system of tolerance and respect that’s existed there for centuries is considered ‘modern’, elsewhere. 

Mixes are a community that not even the 21st century can wrap its head around. 

Instagram @rafa213

“Gubixha bizaani guirá neza guzá ca,” writes Vogue Mexico, is Zapotec for “the sun illuminated all the roads they have walked”, and perhaps that is why they can walk the streets without fear in a predominantly Catholic country that still struggles to offer equal rights for women and that is mostly intolerant of sexual orientations and preferences, Juchitán remains greatly untouched by this hate. Muxes walk the streets with flowers in their hair, they wear light huipiles —a traditional garment worn by indigenous women— and colorful skirts. This indigenous town is a model of how a culture can make space for life outside of the binary. Juchitán is an example to even the most progressive cities of the world. 

Vogue Mexico and Latin America teamed up with British Vogue to celebrate both British and Mexican talent. 

Instagram @voguemexico

The collaboration marked the first time both publications work together on a joint story. The experience allowed both publications to exchange ideas and share their cultures. Vogue Mexico’s cover, featuring Estrella, one of the muxes from Juchitán, was shot by Tim Walker, the iconic British fashion photographer, and the story will be published on both magazines for the month of December. 

Vogue Mexico’s Editor-In-Chief took to Instagram to share the news of the cover story. 

Instagram @karlamartinezdesalas

“It’s finally here!!! We are releasing one of our December covers early as it is a special joint collaboration with @britishvogue – thank you @edward_enninful for featur[ing] the beauty of MEXICO in the pages of British Vogue. No one could have captured the magical realism better than Tim Walker and Kate Phelan. Stay tuned for more!” wrote the Mexican editor Karla Martinez de Salas on her personal Instagram page.

Vogue Mexico’s December issue will be available nation-wide starting December 1st.