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On the third installment of our award-winning series “The Moving Border,” we return to Tapachula, Mexico, nearly two years after our last episode—and the start of a worldwide pandemic.

When we last visited Mexico, we explored how then-President Donald Trump’s policies had achieved what his promises to “build a wall” hadn’t: his policies were successful in creating an at times impenetrable figurative wall blocking asylum seekers from reaching the United States. A wall that started much further south from the U.S.’ doorstep, aided in cooperation by Mexico’s own copycat immigration strategies, that sought to contain people at its own southern border, in Tapachula.

Widelene and her husband Angjar Felix sit on a sidewalk at a public park in Chahuites, Mexico with their two youngest children. They traveled together along with their teenage sons from Brazil all the way to Mexico, in hopes of reaching the U.S. border to ask for asylum. (Photo by Yurema Perez-Hinojosa)

Many of the people we spoke with then hoped that a Biden presidency would bring some relief to their months, and sometimes years-long, wait at the border as they sought to present their cases.

This episode explores how things have—or have not—changed for asylum-seeking migrants in Mexico in the first year of the Biden presidency.

Asylum seekers walking together as a “caravan” are temporarily detained from entering a highway in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico by Mexican law enforcement officials. The group had been on the road for nearly two weeks after leaving Tapachula in the southern state of Chiapas in late October, 2021. (Photo by Yurema Perez-Hinojosa)

We travel to a small town in the state of Oaxaca where we meet up with a “caravan” of families that’s spent weeks on their feet, walking towards the U.S., banded together for safety. In the news, we hear reports that strike fear into listeners about these caravans’ intentions, but at a park where families sleep together crowded over hard sidewalks, we encounter a very different image of what compels these large groups of strangers to move as a unit.

Maria Hinojosa stands at the edge of Las Tekas, a migrant camp which serves as a resting place for migrants before they begin their journey into the Darién to cross the border between Colombia and Panama. The trash around her has accumulated over several months of visitors – those running the camp say they’re planning to haul it back into town and dispose of it. (Photo by Yurema Perez-Hinojosa)

And we witness how the make-up of the asylum seekers themselves is also shifting.

There are now more Haitian migrants arriving in Tapachula than there were two years ago, according to COMAR, The Mexican Commission For Refugee Assistance, which is tasked with processing asylum petitions in Mexico.

The migrant camp of Las Tekas is the last safe resting place for asylum seekers who have undertaken long journeys to reach this place – here they rest under these makeshift tents for one night and begin their journey into the Darién jungle as the sun rises. (Photo by Julieta Martinelli)

Last year, the majority of requests for asylum were actually filed by Haitian nationals, who became the number one petitioners for the first time ever in Mexican history.

Asylum seekers – most from Haiti and including others from Nigeria and Ethiopia – begin their trek into the Darién Gap from Las Tekas, a migrant camp at the edge of the jungle accompanied by Colombian guides. Guides will walk with them for several days to the border with Panama where they will turn back and the group will continue on their own. (Photo by Yurema Perez-Hinojosa)

Then, we travel further south: to the Darién Gap, at the border of Colombia and Panama. There we embark on a difficult journey to try and understand the particularly challenging conditions that Black migrants are facing on their long journey through South America as they try to reach the United States.

Discarded clothing, food and bookbags inside the Darién at the edge of one of many rivers asylum seekers have to cross on foot as they make their way towards Panama. The treacherous landscape, high heat, fast pace, and the many bodies of water along the way often lead crossers to shed the few personal belongings along the way to lighten the load. (Photo by Julieta Martinelli)

 

Listen here to the full report:

Featured photo by Yurema Perez-Hinojosa.

Produced by Julieta Martinelli and edited by Andrea Lopez-Cruzado. Benjamin Alfaro in Mexico and Carlos Villalon in Colombia are associate producers. Production assistance by Elisa Baena, Monica Garcia and Yurema Perez-Hinojosa.

“The Moving Border” was co-produced with Futuro Unidad Hinojosa Investigations, which gets support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Hispanics in Philanthropy. Maria Hinojosa and Diane Sylvester are executive producers of Futuro Unidad Hinojosa Investigations.

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4 thoughts on “The Moving Border: Even Further South

  1. Thank you for your important reports we get on radio KGUA on Mendocino coast. The last on Moving Boarder infuriated me to contact vpharrison who Failed to come up with a plan to isolate asylum seekers inside our boarders who were made so by bush’s US coup on Prez Aristide leaving Haitians vulnerable to hurricanes & even further torturous unrest since the start of their independence. Please continue into that history of us supported Brutal dictatorships there & everywhere in Our hemisphere while attending elsewhere. Didn’t see you on a motorcycle please include a pic & continue with you heroic work.

  2. I have a question regarding Haitian refugees. Haiti shares an island with the Dominican Republic, which seems to be a lovely, stable country. My friend goes there every year for vacation and loves it. So why don’t the Haitians simply move a few miles east and go there and resettle without a dangerous and risky trek to the US southern border where they might be barred? Am I missing something? It seems like a no-brainer.

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