By Emelina Rosa
HAVANA TIMES – The border between Mexico and the US has been closed to “nonessential” traffic and migrants who fall into the hands of the border patrol are being dumped back across the closest border without legal proceedings.
Agua Prieta is quiet, there is a dusk-to-dawn curfew and the municipality supports the shutdown. The long lines we used to see at the border crossing have vanished.
Eleven families from Guerrero, the southern Mexico state with extreme rates of violence, are living in limbo at the CAME migrant shelter in the Sagrada Familia Church, in the city’s oldest neighborhood about a mile from the border crossing. CAME was started twenty years ago in a church that had long been a sanctuary and refuge for the poor. At the time, most of the migrants were single men from Mexico looking for work in the US.
CAME had room for forty-four persons and an expansion was underway before the border shut down. For several years, until March, it was full of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S., waiting to be allowed to cross the border to make the request.
On my last trip across the border, I met with Irasema, a woman from Acapulco who asked me to translate some documents for her asylum hearing, including a police report, medical reports for her and her daughter, a marriage license, and letters supporting her good character.
This is her story: She and her daughter left the house together one morning and were waiting at the bus stop. The daughter was studying hotel management at a local college and Irasema was going to the market. Suddenly a black truck, without plates, pulled up and two men armed with automatic pistols jumped out and stood in their way. One grabbed Irasema’s purse and the other her daughter’s backpack, and one began dragging her daughter towards the truck.
“You’re coming with me, sweetheart.” They screamed and resisted, and the street was crowded, so the guys took off, as the driver shouted, “I’ll come back for you, bitch.”
They did come back a week later, the women had stopped going out but they lived near the bus stop, and one night the guys parked out front, and shouted and kept shouting as the family cowered in the back of the house in the dark. The minute they drove away, Irasema and her husband fled for the border with the girl.
I have heard many variations of these events, they routinely involve the extortion of businesses, even small ones, and the kidnapping of girls and women. The poor, and more so women, have less to give up, but are easier targets.
Irasema and her husband were married in Agua Prieta, after thirty years together, to prove themselves a family to the US government. They were the last people to cross and formally solicit asylum through this port, in the middle of March. We have not heard from them since.