In these times, let’s not forget migrant rights advocates

These are trying times for many of us. It can be difficult to find hope as we continue to live through the challenges and uncertainties of our realities. It seems we were going from one crisis to another, and for some, it is a crisis on top of another. In Mexico, just looking at the area that I work in, we have seen worsening conditions for migrants and persons in need of international protection, confronting inhumane walls that continue to be fortified- the physical ones (borders walls), human ones (contention practices by immigration authorities and national guard) and the bureaucratic ones (inability for people to begin their asylum procedures or access any public services).

We had a humanitarian crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic and as we are in the middle of adjusting to a “new normalcy”, we can already see it is harder for people in mobility to rebuild their lives in such an unfavorable scenario. You know whom I also see tired and in despair? Migrant rights advocates. Day in and day out, they work in precarious conditions and sacrifice their wellbeing to fill in the humanitarian gaps that our governments (national and local) have been unable (or negligent) to address.

I’m not in the frontlines as many of my friends are, working in migrant shelters and organizations that provide direct services. It is tough work, particularly when there is a lack of capacity and resources to respond to a growing need. The political pressure from the U.S. under the Trump administration for Mexico to contain migrant flows has meant that migrants, asylum-seekers and other displaced persons have been forced to stay in a country that (as I have known for over a decade) has lacked mechanisms to receive and integrate its own deported nationals. U.S. elections are around the corner and people hope that a change in the administration could help alleviate this situation for migrants and displaced persons in Mexico. I’m not holding my breath on that one as we also know that on migration, the tendency has been to contain it. But maybe reversing some of the harmful policies that limit access to asylum in the U.S. (including the Migrant Protection Protocols) could help move us in that direction.

What I do know is that my friends and colleagues working in NGOs that aid migrants and displaced persons do this work in constant burnout and with no sign that this is going to get better anytime soon. How often do we think of them as they carry out such important work in times of pandemic? Many of them have lost loved ones to the COVID-19 pandemic, and others are also fighting for their own lives.

This past Friday a friend sent me a GoFundMe fundraiser for a mutual colleague (Sire) who lives in Tijuana. I was unaware that she has been battling a life-threatening condition and that because of the pandemic, she is unable to receive the care she needs from the public health system. I can also attest to the difficulty in receiving regular and specialized care as my dad was recently hospitalized after a heart attack. If you are dying, you are not getting care, and when you do, it can be too late. (My dad is now stable and we are awaiting for his surgery to be scheduled).

Sire is the co-founder of one Casa Arcoiris where she coordinated the medical, mental health, legal, social and housing services for over 150 LGBTQIA+ migrants seeking asylum in Tijuana. I had the pleasure of meeting with her last year in an NGO network and I always appreciated her insights and fight to ensure those spaces were inclusive in all respects. Through her, I also had an opportunity to see firsthand the services provided by Casa Arcoiris and it is truly amazing and much needed. Her dedication and passion for protecting LGBTQIA+ have been so evident to me. Now, she is the one in need of help so that she has a fighting chance for recovery. I hope you can join me in supporting her to meet her fundraising goal.

For information, check out the Surgery 4 Sire, Tijuana LGBTQIA Shelter Co-Founder campaign.

Credit: Surgery 4 Sire, Tijuana LGBTQIA Shelter Co-Founder GoFundMe Campaign

Sire, we send you much love and wishes for quick and full recovery.