Mexico: “Migrant Shelters Are Often The First – and Sometimes Only – Point of Contact for Many Migrants”

August 13, 2017

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO — In December, when I attended a presentation about the detention of migrants, one of the speakers grabbed my attention. She is the director of a legal clinic for refugee applicants that was created a few months earlier at a university here in my city.

I know that other organizations include legal support for refugees as part of their work, so I was interested to learn more about this new clinic, focused solely on legal assistance.

When I spoke with Elba Coria Márquez, the director of the legal clinic, she told me that the project was responding to the growing need for this type of help.

I verified this trend when I later interviewed Diana Castillo, who works on migrant protection issues at a shelter for migrants heading north. Five years ago, staff members at the shelter merely accompanied shelter residents to the local migration office where they could apply for refugee status, she told me. Now, she said, they legally represent those who seek that status, accompanying them through the whole process.

Castillo told me other shelters now offer similar support as well. Shelter staffs also share information with one another to develop best practices.

Migrant shelters are often the first – and sometimes only – point of contact for many migrants crossing through Mexico on their way to the United States. That’s why they are usually the organizations that better understand, and even anticipate, changes in migratory dynamics.

The legal clinic, the shelter and other similar organizations are responding to changing needs of refugees. A few years ago, humanitarian aid might have been adequate. Today, professional support is necessary so that people get the protection they need.

Rishi Khalsa, GPJ, translated this blog post from Spanish.