There are two separate yet interlocking crises affecting LGBTQI migrants and refugees in these regions:
For decades, Mexico has been a meeting place for migrants from across Central and South America seeking safe harbour in the United States. However, due to policies enacted in 2017, border towns in Mexico are facing gridlock as refugees attempt to be recognized and protected. Many migrants get stuck in limbo at the US–Mexico border.
LGBTQI individuals are particularly vulnerable in the context of this crisis. Migrants fleeing Central American countries such as Guatemala and Honduras often escaping violent gangs and government repression face even more hostility when they are gay and transgender. We know from experience that LGTBQI persons are among the most vulnerable when caught in the crosshairs of a crisis, and this reality is certainly true when it comes to the bottleneck at the Mexican border. Currently, under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program — otherwise known as “Remain in Mexico” — people who claim asylum in the US are returned to cities in Mexico while awaiting their asylum hearing in US immigration court. This approach is problematic because there are high crime rates and a shortage of shelter in Mexico.
Millions of people are fleeing violence and extreme poverty in Venezuela. Among them are LGBTQI persons, many of whom have experienced homophobia and transphobia in addition to the dire economic and political circumstances resulting from the crisis of Venezuelan governance.
LGBTQI Venezuelans are fleeing by walking to neighbouring countries to seek refuge. During this journey, they often face persecution and homphobic or transphobic violence. Those stuck at the US–Mexico border often face a similar situation. In Mexican border cities like Tijuana, LGBTQI migrants face hostility from cartels, the police and the government. Tijuana is the murder capital per capita of the world, and LGBTQI persons – specifically transgender women and men – are frequently trafficked, kidnapped, and killed while waiting at the border. Though some may be able to wait in relative safety, the process of entering the United States can still take weeks or sometimes years, depending on the specifics of the case. To date, there have been insufficient efforts by the Mexican and US governments to protect LGBTQI individuals caught in limbo at the international border.
We have partnered with a number of organizations and shelters providing life-saving legal, housing, and basic-needs support for migrants and asylum seekers. In addition, we are assisting individuals stuck at the US–Mexico border by finding them a pathway to safety to the United States or other countries. For more information about our response, see this one page fact sheet.
Rainbow Railroad stands in solidarity with LGBTQI groups and civil society organizations advocating for humanitarian solutions to the migrant crisis at the US–Mexico border. We will advocate for laws and policies that allow asylum seekers from Central and South America to enter the United States, and we will work with partner organizations leading these efforts.