A series of events in the New York area from May 22 to 26 concluded a month-long tour of the US by a group of Mexican and Central American immigration activists seeking to broaden discussion of reforms the US Congress is considering for the country’s immigration policy. The Opening Doors to Hope Caravan was led by Father Alejandro Solalinde Guerra, coordinator of the Brother and Sister Migrants on the Road shelter in Ciudad Ixtepec in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca; he has received death threats for his efforts to protect Central American immigrants from criminal gangs and corrupt officials during their transit through Mexico. The caravan was reminiscent of a Caravan for Peace led by Mexican poet and peace activist Javier Sicilia in the summer of 2012 but on a smaller scale.
“We’re here to raise the voices of those who die in the deserts” while attempting to cross the border into the US, caravan member Estela Jiménez explained. “Let’s raise our voices for the thousands of children who have been left without their parents because of the deportations [ordered by US president Barack] Obama…. We aren’t criminals; we’re international workers, and the struggle is global.” Some of the participants were themselves evidence of the human cost of current immigration policies in the US and Mexico. Pedro Aguilar said he fled his native Honduras to escape criminal violence there that led to the death of two brothers. He lost half of his left leg in Mexico while trying to climb on to the “The Beast,” the notoriously dangerous freight train that runs between Tabasco and Tlaxcala, in an effort to escape the Mexican criminals who prey on Central American immigrants.
The caravan made stops in a number of cities, including Phoenix, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Chicago. In Washington, DC, caravan participants visited about 20 congressional offices, meeting with Congress members or their staffers, but much of the focus was on establishing ties with grassroots activists in the US. After a small press conference outside the federal building in New York on May 23, Solalinde met with members of the Occupy Wall Street movement in the nearby Zuccotti Park. That evening Marco Castillo, a caravan organizer and a member of Mexico’s Popular Assembly of Migrant Families (APOFAM), facilitated a meeting between caravan members and about 30 New York-based immigrant rights activists to discuss strengthening ties and developing joint strategies. (La Jornada, Mexico, May 25 from correspondent; report from Update editor)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 26.