On Nov. 11, the first refugees part of the migrant caravan arrived at the U.S./Mexico border. They didn’t get there faster than the rest because they walked quicker than the others, but rather because they said they were discriminated against and chose to separate from the large group.
The group of about 70 to 80 LGBTQ refugees say they were often disregarded and discriminated against during the months-long journey.
CREDIT: Twitter/ @DarlingtonMicah
“Whenever we arrived at a stopping point the LGBT community was the last to be taken into account in every way. So our goal was to change that and say, ‘This time we are going to be first,'” Honduran migrant Cesar Mejia told reporters, according to Diario Exalapa.
The 23-year-old said that they left their home country for various concerns. “I’m escaping from poverty, from crime, discrimination, and everything, there’s no work and there’s nothing, there’s no food, I think I’ve eaten more on this road than in my house,” Mejia said. Mejia was a volunteer for organizations that provided information on how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV to young people in the LGBTQ community.
“We are fleeing a country where there’s a lot of crime against us,” an unidentified transgender woman, told reporters, according to NPR.
One trans woman told reporters about her experience on the caravan, saying “There was no physical abuse but there was plenty of verbal abuse.” She added that while the journey in the caravan was hard, it was “nothing compared to the reality of living as a transgender woman” in her home country of Honduras.
Mejia also spoke about the violence that he experienced in Honduras, along with his friends, just because they are gay. He said that one day three of his gay friends were killed and buried. He told Diario Exalapa that he just wants to live in a place where he is accepted.
“I never imagined that there would be discrimination in the caravan. Supposedly we were all united,” said Lisett Won, a trans woman from Honduras who said she fled her home country after being assaulted multiple times, according to CNN.
Won also explained that being around the LGBT migrants has helped feel more empowered because they have united together. In an interview with CNN she relayed that her main goal is to seek asylum in the U.S.
RAICES — an organization that helps undocumented people with legal and mental health services — is reporting that trans women are more at risk because they could be propositioned into sex-trafficking.
For the time being the LGBT Group is getting funds from lawyers and organizations to fund their AirBNB in T.J.
Certified Immigration Specialist and Lawyer Lilia Velasquez told 10News that they are protecting the group “especially if their country of origin criminalizes or punishes them, in some countries even by death if they happen to be part of the LGBTQ community.”
But they have already faced some issues in T.J. 10News reports that neighbors in the area have told them to leave and said they are not wanted there.
“We aren’t safe here,” a woman who lives in the neighborhood said told NPR. “There could be someone within your group that could hurt us.”
However, there’s at least one local group that is trying to keep the peace between the LGBT group and the neighbors.
Vecinos de Playas de Tijuana, A.C., an organization in Tijuana posted on Facebook that they were surprised to see this smaller group arrive first in their city.
Estamos aquí en la calle Olas saltas 765 sección Coronado, muy sorprendidos porque llegó una caravana LGTB. Muy…
They were not expecting any people from the caravan so soon.
“We spoke with Efrén González, coordinator of human rights and César Mejia, leader of the LGBT community, members of the migrant caravan, commenting that they were guided and supported by U.S lawyers to solve their immigration status, they estimate that their stay will be one week in the house they rented on the street,” the group said on Facebook. “Since they will be presenting 15 people at the United States border to resolve their immigration status, there are 77 people, are organized as follows; CDH staff supports them to make their food purchases, they will avoid walking around the streets, talk loudly, avoid making noise at night. They were warned that the area is patrolled, that there is security, that they avoid being confused. We agree that respect should prevail, since this section is continually affected by crime and we do not want both them and us to be harmed. César first, apologizes because he considers that he was upset when he was approached by some neighbors and considers that if he does not manage to resolve his issue in a week they will look for a shelter. Neighbors, we ask for tolerance, and tomorrow I will seek to speak with the Delegate to give us security given the conditions of the section.”
Several hundred refugees have also recently arrived at the border as well.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokeswoman said that border security is in place and ready for the arrival of the groups.
“We are moving hundreds of additional CBP personnel into place to ensure our ability to safely address multiple potential contingencies, at and between the Southern California ports of entry,” CBP spokeswoman April Grant said according to CNN.