Report from the Hecate Society about the recent migrant caravans with an eye towards queer and trans people within it.
Trans folks stand at the very front of this movement.
As of yesterday morning, the last three members of the 60+ trans asylum seeking contingent successfully presented to Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The trans womxn caravana strategically moved from Tijuana to ports of entry further east weeks ago and now are just waiting for sponsorship finalizations before being released from detainment and safely moving into houses in the US. These folx are the first of the recent Central American caravanas to successfully present to the CBP and are paving the way for thousands of more Central American refugees that are waiting, and trying to survive one day at a time in Tijuana.
The north bound exodus was a grueling journey. Some people died and many were too ill to make it all the way to the border. And now, las caravanas are here. To quote Jessie Sandoval,“But now, that the Caravan is here, at the border, in a state of waiting, “static”, and pinned in, between a rock and hard place, and basically, in a Prison-Migrant-Concentration-Camp, many people have begun to slip their attentions elsewhere, perhaps under the assumption, that the #AsylumSeekers are being “handled”, or that experts are taking care of them… But, PLEASE don’t make this mistake.”
In the past couple weeks, 6,0000+refugees were forcibly moved by the federal government from Benito Juarez, a sports stadium downtown in El Centro, to Barretal, a music venue on the eastern outskirts of the city, 10 miles away from downtown. As Sandoval said, Barretal closely resembles a concentration camp, thousands of people cramped into tents some still lying on the ground with no tarps or blankets. Every move is being controlled by dozens of armed agents of the Mexican federal government. People coming from outside with donations are immediately greeted by armed federales who will direct them to leave all of their donations in a large storage room, once used as an entry way to the music venue. Once the donations go into that room it is unclear what happens to them if anything, besides sitting their indefinitely.Refugees inside do not receive any of these donations. In response, volunteers and refugees have banned together to self-organize a donation drop off and kitchen inside of Barretal. The space is heavily monitored and forcibly shutdown once the sun sets every evening. Thousands of people still wait for shoes, blankets, warm clothes and meals every single day.
Across the city, dozens of shelters have taken in refugees from the recent caravanas. Some shelters are specifically for unaccompanied children or women. All of these shelters are in drastic need of support. There is not enough food, tents, blankets or warm clothing for the children, teens, women or men. 600+ people still remain outside of the sports stadium, Benito Juarez, living in tents or just sleeping on the streets.Children run around barefoot, with parents desperately trying to find ways to get them shoes. Volunteers show up in pick up trucks piled with food to handout, sometimes harassed by the police and forced to leave, sometimes not. There is never enough food. Despite every pick up truck that comes by daily, are still hundreds of people that do not eat.
Enclave Caracol, an anarchist info shop downtown, is the heart and soul of love and humanity that is being spread throughout the refugees and volunteers on the ground here in Tijuana.Feeding over 500+ refugees and volunteers a day in two different locations, hosting and helping run a fully functioning legal collective, organizing thousands of donations that come in and spreading them all across the city while also continuing to run a bike shop, zine and book library and provide housing for volunteers. On top of that, the majority of the coordination and volunteering at Enclave Caravol is being completely organized by refugees themselves who are waiting to seek asylum and centering the needs of womxn, children and lgbtq+
Multiple different direct actions and measures of civil disobedience have been happening weekly. A few days ago, faith leaders organized hundreds of people from all over Turtle Island to march along the beach to the San Diego side of the border wall where they were greeted by30+ border patrol agents carrying snipers, tear gas cans and batons. ICE having covered their 30 foot bollards with triple layers of barb wire have also formed a rectangle of space on the sand and in the ocean water they claim is federal property although until recently, the public has always been able to walk freely in that space. Over 30 faith leaders and protestors who tested the waters, and pushed back on the hassle line riot cops created, were arrested and charged with misdemeanors of disobeying lawful orders.
On November 29th a group of women announced they were going on a hunger strike until their demands were met. Their demands mainly being: Immediate Mexican temporary humanitarian visas while they wait for asylum in the US, the US to speed up the asylum process at the border, and, to stop to deportations of refugees from the exodus. No demands from the hunger strikers were met by the government, instead the police watched on as the hunger strikers lived in tents with their children underneath a viaduct in the middle of a large road outside the Port of Entry being hassled by fascists and sometimes by the cops themselves. Due to safety concerns, as of two days ago, the hunger strikers disbanded their physical camp but continued to uphold their demands and organized over a hundred people to shut down the street marching from the Instituto Nacional de Migracion to the US consulate where they held a ceremony and press conference requested that the US up the number of asylum seekers they are processing each day from 50 people to 300. Around 40+ armed Mexican riot cops guarded the entrance of the US consulate while the hunger strikers held their press conference.
Meanwhile, as refugees patiently wait in unimaginable conditions for “credible fear” interviews that are scheduled months from now, or some with none scheduled at all, 14 miles of border wall are currently being constructed in San Diego/Tijuana. SLSCO, a Texas-based construction corporation won a $147 million contract to make the wall, bigger, taller and stronger. When driving down the 1D from El Centro in Tijuana to Playas, multiple active construction sites are clearly visible with roaming excavators next to large fenced storage yards with huge pieces of wall. Excavators escorted by two homeland security vehicles each, drive down the access roads daily from the parking lot of Border Field State Park on the US side (near San Diego) to their active work sites. Hundreds of people attempt to climb the wall everyday where they are normally met by Border Patrol who are trained to kill anyone attempting to get over the wall if they do not listen to their demands.
The situation at the refugee encampments is bleak. Borders are death traps for indigenous people, and people of color. The refugees are tired and sick but the government is doing nothing to help them. Most people in this city are physically sick right now. Some volunteers who have the privilege to, have gone back to the US to get healthy and then return. Unlike refugees who have no choice but to continue to live in miserable conditions, with no access to medicine, clean water, food, or warm clothes. Doctors attempting to set up clinics get interrogated by police. The federal government is controlling every move people make.
While the majority of trans womxn left Tijuana to seek asylum at a different port of entry (successfully!) there are many self-identified lgbtq+ folks here still that were apart of the original trans and queer caravana that arrived weeks ago. If everything goes in order, they will begin their interview and asylum process within the next couple of weeks.As lawyers get ready on their front, femme and queer volunteers from both Tijuana and the US are working with the lgbtq+ refugees to ensure safety and stability.After originally all being housed in a shelter together where a horrendous homophobic act of resistance put everyone at the shelter’s life in danger, folks are now being housed at more secure locations due to the tireless work of the refugees themselves and volunteers. With the series of escalatory events that led up to the immense fear of safety for the lgbtq+ caravana, the group has chosen to be physically separated from other people in the caravana for quite a while but are now attempting to find safe ways to get back involved. A lot of work is yet to be done around bridging the gap between the lgbtq+ and the other folks in the caravana. While refugees and volunteers are working tirelessly to find US sponsors for queer refugees, and meet all their basic survival needs of the next couple of months, there is an intense need for support around programming and skill sharing here in the lgbtq+ spaces in Tijuana.
The following is a flyer for the most updated needs of the LGBTQ+ safe houses. Additionally, we are encouraging people to get creative about ways they can plug in to do refugee support work. If you are a DJ, come throw a party for the refugees and volunteers, if you have access to graphic design and screen printing, talk to us about making t-shirts for las caravanas. Organize in your own communities, shutdown detention centers, block the construction of the border wall, find families in your communities that can sponsor refugees. The border is everywhere. You do not need to come to Tijuana to organize around this or to help refugees. Start tomorrow where you are now. And whatever you do, DO NOT listen to the mainstream media. People are not okay here. We need as much support as we can get right now.