Editor’s Note: Michael K. Lavers, Editor-in-Chief of International News, was on assignment for the Washington Blade in Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador July 11-25.
TIJUANA, Mexico – Marvin is a 23-year-old gay man from Dulce Nombre, a municipality in the Department of Copán in Honduras.
He left Honduras with a caravan of migrants on January 13, 2020, in order to escape the discrimination he would have suffered if his family and neighbors knew he was gay. Marvin spent eight months in the custody of Mexican immigration officials until they released him last November.
He was in the Mexican border town of Tijuana in April when a cousin told him his younger brother had been murdered. Marvin, who currently lives at the Jardín de las Mariposas, a shelter for LGBTQ asylum seekers in Tijuana, began to sob when Blade saw a photo of his brother’s body at the mortuary in San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ second largest city. .
“He didn’t play with anyone,” Marvin said.
Marvin is one of 47 people who were living at the Jardín de las Mariposas when Blade visited it on July 12. The maximum capacity of the refuge is 40.
A lesbian woman who asked the Blade not to publish her name said she fled El Salvador in January after members of the MS-13 gang threatened to kill her because she couldn’t pay them. money they asked him for. She said members of 18th Street, another gang, attacked her son after he refused to sell drugs.
“They hit him really hard; very, very hard, ”the lesbian told Blade in Jardín de las Mariposas, speaking through tears.
Olvin, a 22-year-old gay man from El Progreso, a town in the Yoro department of Honduras, left the country in January.
He said he and his three-year-old partner lived together in Tapachula, a town in Mexico’s Chiapas state, near the country’s border with Guatemala, for several months. Olvin said gang members threatened them and they were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.
Olvin told the Blade he saved his partner from a building one night after refusing to sell drugs, and they rushed to a nearby park. Olvin, who was crying when he spoke with the Blade in Jardín de las Mariposas, said he left Tapachula a few days later without his partner.
Olvin arrived at the shelter a few hours before the blade’s visit. He said he wanted to seek asylum in the United States
“I want to live in a safe place,” Olvin said.
Kelly West is a transgender woman who has fled discrimination and persecution she says she suffered in Jamaica.
She flew to Panama City, then to the Mexican city of Guadalajara before arriving in Tijuana on June 16. West said she and a group of eight other LGBTQ asylum seekers attempted to “cross the border line” between Mexico and the United States, but Mexican police arrested them.
“We had to run to save our lives,” West told Blade in Jardín de las Mariposas. “I even ran without my shoes. I jumped over a bridge.
She said she and three of the other asylum seekers she had attempted to enter the United States with went to another LGBTQ asylum seekers shelter in Tijuana, but it was full. West said the shelter referred them to Jardín de las Mariposas.
“I really like being here,” she told the Blade. “Here I can be whoever I want, I can dress how I want. I can wear my heels, I can wear my hair. I can just be feminine everyday.
Jaime Marín, who runs Jardín de las Mariposas with his mother, Yolanda Rocha, noted that some residents were sleeping in a tent in the backyard because the shelter is overcapacity.
“We are overcrowded with a lot of people,” Marín told The Blade.
Title 42, a rule from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that has closed the southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants due to the coronavirus pandemic, remains in place.
Vice President Kamala Harris and other administration officials have publicly acknowledged that violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity is one of the “root causes” of migration from Honduras, from El Salvador and Guatemala. The White House has told migrants not to go to the US-Mexico border, but Marín said the number of people who have made it to Tijuana since President Biden took office has increased significantly.
The previous White House forced tens of thousands of asylum seekers to continue their business in Mexico under its Migrant Protection Protocols program. On June 1, the Biden administration officially ended the MPP.
“The process was easier, which means they don’t stay for months or years,” Marín told The Blade. “They apply, say today, and they get a response for a date in two weeks. They’re basically in the United States in a month.
Marvin hopes to use the photo of his brother’s body in the morgue and Honduran newspaper articles about his murder as evidence to substantiate his asylum claim. Marvin, however, has yet to find someone to sponsor him.
“My goal… is to go to the United States,” he said.
Marín told the Blade that the other two shelters for LGBTQ asylum seekers in Tijuana were also at maximum capacity. Marín said US immigration officials are also “overwhelmed” with new asylum claims.
“It might take a little over a month due to the number of people coming and we just need to increase the work that we do also because we also get a lot more work,” he told Blade. “We are also overwhelmed. “
A fire destroyed a migrant shelter in Mexicali run by lesbians on July 9
Centro Comunitario de Bienestar Social (COBINA) in Mexicali, a border town about 2.5 hours east of Tijuana, is a group serving LGBTQ and other vulnerable groups.
It operates three migrant shelters in the city, which borders Calexico, Calif., In the Imperial Valley of California. An electrical fire that destroyed COBINA’s Refugio del Migrante on July 9 displaced the 152 migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and other countries who lived there.
Some residents of the shelter were living in the COBINA offices when Blade visited them on July 12.
“We need the resources to rebuild the shelter, to buy wood, to buy whatever is needed,” COBINA president Altagracia Tamayo told The Blade.
The Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration raised $ 2,600 for COBINA to purchase clothing, food and diapers for the displaced migrants and their children. ORAM funds will also enable COBINA to purchase portable air conditioners. (The temperature at Mexicali was 108 degrees when the blade reported from there.)
Tamayo told The Blade that COBINA is working with the United Nations Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration to help displaced migrants.
Jardín de las Mariposas moved into a new house in May. It is less than four miles from El Chaparral, the main port of entry between Tijuana and San Diego.
Alight, formerly known as the United States Refugee Agency, recently worked with ORAM to install security cameras and purchase new furniture for Jardín de las Mariposas. They also painted the shelter and a mural, installed solar heaters on the roof, planted plants and renovated the backyard.
This work is part of Alight’s “A Little Piece of Home” initiative which aims to improve shelters for migrants and refugees along the border.
“It’s wonderful because they help us and don’t let us down,” Marín told The Blade. “They basically give us hope to continue this fight that we have.”