Off a side street in a small town in central Mexico, the shelter entrance was hard to find until we noticed a young family sitting under a tree near a gate with a worn sign welcoming “migrant brothers and sisters.” We walked through the gate into a dusty courtyard surrounded by makeshift structures in the shadow of a church, where we were greeted warmly by the shelter’s director. He explained they were currently accommodating approximately 30 migrants from Central America, and that we had just missed 120 others who left to catch the train going north. The shelter, with a staff of five and several volunteers in and out during the day, has served over 3,000 people so far this year. This is a substantial increase over last year, and most notably, they are serving an increasing number of families.
We spent last week in Mexico providing asylum presentations and individual consultations in partnership with the Institute for Women in Migration, IMUMI. The biggest takeaway from our experience was the prevalence of violence. Everyone described stories of domestic violence or gang violence (or both) in their home countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, and the lack of any protection from government authorities. Everyone also described the great danger they faced along their journey through Mexico, detailing robberies, assaults and even an attempted kidnapping.