For decades, Mexico has been a meeting place for migrants from across Central and South America looking to seek safe harbour in the United States. However, due to policies enacted since 2017, border towns in Mexico are facing gridlock as refugees attempt to be recognized and protected, particularly at the border crossing in Tijuana.
LGBTQI individuals face a very specific situation in the context of this much broader crisis. Migrants fleeing Central American countries such as Guatemala and Honduras by violent gangs and government repression face even more violence when they are gay or transgender. We know from experience that LGTBQI persons are among the most vulnerable when caught in the cross hairs of crisis, and this is certainly true when it comes to the bottleneck at the Mexican border. Currnetly, Under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) – known as the “Remain in Mexico” program – asylum seekers in the US are returned to cities in Mexico where there is a shortage of shelter and high crime rates while awaiting asylum hearings in US immigration court.
Similarly, as political and economic migrants flee violence and extreme poverty in Venezuela, among them are LGTBQI persons who have faced unimaginable intersecting persecution as a result of their identity as well as political and economic circumstances.
While some refugees may be able to wait in relative safety in Mexico while their number for assessment for entry into the United States is called - a process that can take weeks to years depending on the case - LGBTQI persons are facing the same if not worse horrors at the hands of cartels, the police, and the government while waiting in Tijuana. 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 for consideration at the border. To date, there has been insufficient efforts by the Mexican government to protect LGBTQI individuals, nor adequate expeditions of LGBTQI processing by US immigration officials.
Rainbow Railroad has not historically had a large presence in the region but we are deeply concerned about reports on a mounting crisis. As a result, In 2019 we visited Tijuana and began explorations and assessments of the activists and networks on the ground supporting LGBTQI refugees in Mexico from countries around the world, but in particular from the Northern Triangle. We partnered with a number of organizations and shelters providing life-saving legal, housing, and basic needs support and have begun investing in assisting individuals stuck in Tijuana get to safety in the United States or quite possibly another safe country.
At the moment, Rainbow Railroad stands in solidarity with LGBTQI groups and civil society advocating for humanitarian solutions to this migrant crisis.