Things That Matter

Undocumented People In The US Are Getting A Chance To Reunite With Family Thanks To This Program

It’s been two decades since Imelda Gil, 73, last saw her daughter. That’s because her daughter, Isabel, left her home of Michoacan, Mexico 20 years ago to cross illegally into the United States. Unfortunately, Isabel like many of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S, never returned.

Their story is similar to countless other undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. that leave their home country for a better life but also leave their family behind with no chance of seeing them again.

“I speak with her on the phone every three days, and with video calls, but it’s not the same as seeing her in person,” Imelda told CGTN. “She says her only concern is that something will happen to me. That I might die, and she won’t be here when it happens.”

But after years of separation and anxiety of the dangers that might await, they are finally getting the chance to reunite. As part of a unique migrant reunion program, Imelda will get a U.S. tourist visa and have the chance to meet her daughter and the American-born grandchildren she’s never met. 

Imelda is one of more than 6,000 Mexicans that have been reunited with their loved ones due to the ‘Paloma Mensajera’ or ‘Messenger Pigeon’ program that started back in 2017. 

Credit: CGTN / YouTube

The program is a joint effort between the Michoacan government, the U.S. State Department, and various local migrant organizations. One of those organizations is the Migrant Advocate which is run by Marco Ramirez. He says that the program goes a long way in helping bridge families together even if it’s temporary. 

“Little by little, a migrant becomes indifferent about their own family. That’s what happens. You feel a connection to your loved ones when you are with them in person, and when you leave, the love and the emotion begins to go away. So whoever you talk to about this program, it’s the greatest gift we could possibly receive,” Ramirez told CGTN. 

For Imelda, this moment has been decades in the making. She was joined by 20 other Mexicans on her flight to the U.S. that were all patiently waiting to touch down on American soil. 

Few can ever relate to the emotions that many of these migrant families go through upon reuniting for the first time,

The moment that her mother gets off the plane, Isabel is overcome with emotion. She says that through everything that she’s been through the moment she saw her mom mad it worth it. 

“I feel very happy. It’s something I never thought would happen,” Isabel says upon seeing her mother for the first time in 20 years. “Because even if I cannot return to Mexico, at least God has already given me the joy of seeing her again. A person comes to this country because they want a better life for their children. In Michoacan there is a lot of murder and kidnapping. I’m scared of being forced to live through something like that,” 

For Isabel, it hasn’t been easy for her and her three children making ends meet in the U.S. She worked through multiple cleaning jobs and had to juggle taking care of three kids, all while getting by without proper citizenship. Her fears heightened as President Trump took office in 2016 and enacted a more aggressive anti-immigration policy. 

“Once you enter illegally, it’s almost impossible to become legal. A lot of them are afraid of buying a home, even if they have the money to do so. They are afraid of investing in a business, Paola Chavarro, a U.S. immigration attorney, told CGTN. “They’re afraid because they’re here today, but they could be deported fairly soon.”

Isabel fears for her safety and her immigration status keeps her on edge. She knows deportation is always a possibility but is always prepared for the worst-case scenario.

 “You have to live in the moment, and hope that when you leave the house in the morning, you will return again at night. Because you never know,” she says.

While there are constant fears, Isabel and her mother can enjoy the next month together. Even if it’s only for a short while, it’s a moment that will last a lifetime. 

READ: A New Documentary Is Showing An Untold And Heartbreaking Side Of The Undocumented Life In The United States

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Mexico Wants To Be The Hub Of Latin America’s Space Industry And This Is Their Incredible Plan

Things That Matter

Mexico Wants To Be The Hub Of Latin America’s Space Industry And This Is Their Incredible Plan

Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/Getty

Although the world is still struggling with how best to contain the Coronavirus pandemic, many governments are forging ahead with long term goals and development programs.

One of the most important to new programs to launch in Mexico is central to its economic and scientific future – its future in space. Together with other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (some of which already have their own independent agencies), Mexico is looking to become the leader in the region when it comes to space research and exploration.

The country recently announced its intentions for just such an agency, that they hope would be based in Mexico with foreign capital providing the seed money to get the project off the ground.

Mexico announced its intention to head up a Latin American and Caribbean space agency.

Mexico has launched an ambitious new project – creating a Latin American Space and Caribbean Space Agency that would facilitate the sharing of satellite images and aims to observe the planet. The agency would be dedicated to earth observation, satellite image sharing and multi-sector dialogue.

The project was presented by Javier López Casarín, Honorary President of the Technical Council of Knowledge and Innovation of the Mexican Agency for International Cooperation for Development (AMEXCID). López Casarín attended the meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), where he presented the project for the creation of the Latin American and Caribbean Space Agency, an entity that will be at the same level as other agencies (think NASA and the European Space Agency) of world space research with which it hopes to exchange information.

As part of the same meeting, the Latin American coordinators highlighted the role of Mexico in charge of the presidency of the community of Latin American states and appreciated the proposal to create a joint space agency.

Mexico has had a space agency of its own since 2010 but they’re looking to expand the operations.

Mexico has had its own space agency, the Agencia Espacial Mexicana, since 2010. Plus, several other countries across Latin America and the Caribbean have their own similar departments that over see satellites, information gathering, meteorological date, etc.

Mexico’s space agency has been tasked with carrying out study programs, research, and academic support, however, its duties have never included the aim of space exploration with its own infrastructure.

One of the agency’s key objectives is to help increase internet connectivity across the region.

In 2019, the Agencia Espacial Mexicana announced it was developing its space program around the needs of Mexican society – that it would be for the social benefit.

Among other techonoligcal solutions, the government has made it a core principle to help expand access to Internet across the country. By merging various space agencies into one, this increased Internet connectivity will likely spread to other countries in Latin America.

Internet connectivity rates vary from around 27% in El Salvador to close to 80% in Brazil – so bringing that wide gap is seen as critical for sustained development in the region.

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The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico

Culture

The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico

Tyrone Turner / Getty Images

Latinos make up the largest minority group in the country, yet our history is so frequently left out of classrooms. From Chicano communities in Texas and California to Latinos in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the Underground Railroad – which also had a route into Mexico – Latinos have helped shape and advance this country.

And as the U.S. is undergoing a racial reckoning around policing and systemic racism, Mexico’s route of the Underground Railroad is getting renewed attention – particularly because Mexico (for the very first time in history) has counted its Afro-Mexican population as its own category in this year’s census.

The Underground Railroad also ran south into Mexico and it’s getting renewed attention.

Most of us are familiar with stories of the Underground Railroad. It was a network of clandestine routes and safe houses established in the U.S. during the early to mid-19th century. It was used by enslaved African Americans to escape into free states and Canada. It grew steadily until the Civil War began, and by one estimate it was used by more than 100,000 enslaved people to escape bondage.

In a story reported on by the Associated Press, there is renewed interest in another route on the Underground Railroad, one that went south into Mexico. Bacha-Garza, a historian, dug into oral family histories and heard an unexpected story: ranches served as a stop on the Underground Railroad to Mexico. Across Texas and parts of Louisiana, Alabama, and Arkansas, scholars and preservation advocates are working to piece together the story of a largely forgotten part of American history: a network that helped thousands of Black slaves escape to Mexico.

According to Maria Hammack, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin studying the passage of escapees who crossed the borderlands for sanctuary in Mexico, about 5,000 to 10,000 people broke free from bondage into the southern country. Currently, no reliable figures currently exist detailing how many left to Mexico, unlike the more prominent transit into Canada’s safe haven.

Mexico abolished slavery a generation before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Thirty-four years before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, in 1829, Mexican President Vicente Guerrero, who was of mixed background, including African heritage, abolished slavery in the country. The measure freed an estimated 200,000 enslaved Africans Spain forcefully brought over into what was then called New Spain and would later open a pathway for Blacks seeking freedom in the Southern U.S.

And he did so while Texas was still part of the country, in part prompting white, slave-holding immigrants to fight for independence in the Texas Revolution. Once they formed the Republic of Texas in 1836, they made slavery legal again, and it continued to be legal when Texas joined the U.S. as a state in 1845.

With the north’s popular underground railroad out of reach for many on the southern margins, Mexico was a more plausible route to freedom for these men and women.

Just like with the northern route, helping people along the route was dangerous and could land you in serious trouble.

Credit: Library of Congress / Public Domain

Much like on the railway’s northern route into Canada, anyone caught helping African-Americans fleeing slavery faced serious and severe consequences.

Slaveholders were aware that people were escaping south, and attempted to get Mexico to sign a fugitive slave treaty that would, like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that demanded free states to return escapees, require Mexico to deliver those who had left. Mexico, however, refused to sign, contending that all enslaved people were free once they reached Mexican soil. Despite this, Hammock said that some Texans hired what was called “slave catchers” or “slave hunters” to illegally cross into the country, where they had no jurisdiction, to kidnap escapees.

“The organization that we know today as the Texas Rangers was born out of an organization of men that were slave hunters,” Hammack, who is currently researching how often these actions took place, told the AP. “They were bounty hunters trying to retrieve enslaved property that crossed the Rio Grande for slave owners and would get paid according to how far into Mexico the slaves were found.”

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