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

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Armed Police In Tulum Arrested A Gay Couple For Allegedly Kissing On The Beach

Things That Matter

Armed Police In Tulum Arrested A Gay Couple For Allegedly Kissing On The Beach

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Mexico has remained a popular tourist destination as people seek out places with fewer restrictions. However, Mexico’s popular beach destination of Tulum apparently still has some restrictions – for LGBTQ folks – that the police are quick to enforce.

A Canadian couple was briefly detained by police for allegedly kissing on the beach.

Police in the popular resort town of Tulum, about 90-minutes south of Cancun, briefly arrested a gay couple for kissing in public on a beach, alleging that the couple was not allowed to kiss in public because children were present.

According to local media reports, police said they were reacting to a report by someone else on the beach who had claimed that the men were “committing immoral acts.”

The couple were handcuffed together and ordered in to the back of a patrol vehicle until a crowd of onlookers formed and began to shout disapprovingly at police after one of the men explained to the crowd why they were being detained.

Outraged bystanders gathered around the couple and urged the police to let the men go.

The crowd began shouting in support of the couple, calling the actions homophobic and demanding the couple’s release.

The pressure from the crowd apparently prompted officers to release the men after a few minutes of dialogue. The presence of Escalante herself might also have been a factor.

In response to the arrest, Quintana Roo Tulum Police said: ‘We are an inclusive and impartial police both for residents and tourists who visit the state of Quintana Roo. So no abuse of authority will be tolerated.’

Video of the incident quickly went viral on social media with outrage being the common reaction.

Video and photos of the arrest went viral after on social media accounts, including that of local politician Maritza Escalante Morales, who denounced the actions of the officers. Escalante happened to be at the beach with her family when she noticed the officers approach the couple, she said, and joined the crowd to advocate for the couple’s release.

“I want to file a PUBLIC COMPLAINT, because the treatment and type of authorities we have in our municipality is inexcusable. Yesterday while I was on the beach with my family, we noticed around 4:30 that 2 police squads in their ATVs approached a group of young foreigners. After about 20 minutes, a patrol arrived and proceeded to arrest them with handcuffs,” she explained on TikTok.

“The policemen were VIOLENT,” Morales added, “and gave arguments such as ‘there are families and children and they cannot be seeing this. I am FURIOUS because it is not possible that in the XXI century this type of oppression against the LGBT+ community continues. We all deserve the same treatment, and appropriate sanctions must be applied to these authorities.”

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This Teacher Received A Nissan Pickup Truck Decked Out As A Mobile Classroom

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This Teacher Received A Nissan Pickup Truck Decked Out As A Mobile Classroom

Like students around the world, kids in Mexico have been forced to take school online or tune into programming on public TV in order to learn. But that’s just the kids who are lucky enough to have access to Internet or a TV. Many students live in rural areas and lack the adequate resources to continue their studies amid the global pandemic.

But thankfully, there are many good samaritans out there (aka compassionate teachers) who have invented their own ways to bring the classroom to kids wherever they are.

A Mexican teacher was gifted a decked out pickup truck by Nissan.

Since schools were forced to close last year in April, Aguascalientes special education teacher Nallely Esparza Flores, has been driving four hours a day to educate students one-on-one at their homes from her truck bed, outfitted with a small table and chairs.

News of her project spread across social media, eventually reaching the corporate offices of Nissan México. This week, the company surprised Esparza with the gift of a new pickup truck specially outfitted with a small open-air mobile classroom built into the truck’s bed.

“Today I feel like my labors and the help that we give each day to children and their families is unstoppable,” she said on Twitter Wednesday, sharing photos of her new vehicle. “My students no longer have to take classes in the full heat of the sun,” she said.

Nissan representatives said they decided to give Esparza the adapted NP300 model, 4-cylinder truck after hearing her story because she was “an example of perseverance and empathy.”

“When we learned about the incredible work of this teacher, we got together to discuss in what way we could contribute to this noble work,” said Armando Ávila, a vice president of manufacturing.

The mobile classroom is pretty legit and will allow Esparza to continue her good deed.

Esparza inside her new classroom.

The decked out Nissan pickup truck has three walls (the other is a retractable sheeting) and a ceiling made with translucent panels to protect teacher and student from the elements while letting in natural light.

It also has retractable steps for easy access to the classroom, electrical connections, a whiteboard and an easily disinfected acrylic table and benches that are foldable into the wall to provide space. The table also has a built-in plexiglass barrier to allow social distancing.

Access to education in Mexico is highly inequitable.

Esparza, like many teachers across the country, found that not all distance learning was equal. Many of her students in Cavillo were from poor families without internet access. So she used social media networks to keep in touch with such students via cell phones, but even that was not necessarily an available option for all — and not ideal. Finally, she decided to solve the problem by hitting the road in her pickup truck.

According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), only 58% of students in Mexico had a home computer – the lowest percentage among all OECD countries. And only about one third (32%) of the school computers in rural schools in Mexico were connected to
the Internet, compared to more than 90% for schools located in urban areas.

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