EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – This will be a bittersweet holiday for the hundreds of Mexican and Central American women who are spending Mother’s Day in Juarez migrant shelters.
Some of them fled gang violence and poverty in Central American neighborhoods, but when they got here, U.S. immigration officers turned them away at the border. Others left their Mexican communities to ensure their teen-aged children would not be ensnared by drug traffickers looking for couriers and sicarios – Mexico’s disposable drug cartel hitmen.
“It’s not going to be the same because I’m far from my family. But I’m not going to cry about it. I will try to have a good day and go on with my life,” said Ada Argentina, a Honduran woman who came to Juarez last month with her 13-year-old son.
They had hoped to be allowed into the United States, but they said an immigration officers at the Paso del Norte port of entry told them the government wasn’t accepting asylum applications. A Mexican official led them to a nonprofit shelter a block away from the Rio Grande.
Bertha, a native of Michoacan, Mexico, said she made her way to the border with her seven children in tow. The boiling drug war between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and local gangs like La Familia Michoacana, coupled with the lack of economic opportunities, made it impossible for her to stay in Michoacan.
She made the trip with trip with her mother and wouldn’t say what happened to her husband. Bertha said she is mentally and emotionally prepared to spend one of the most revered holidays in her culture inside an old office building hastily equipped as living quarters for more than 100 people from half a dozen countries.
“As long as my children are with me, I feel happy. But for those (women) who are here without their families, I imagine it must be very difficult for them to spend Mother’s Day here,” Bertha said.
Being forcibly displaced takes an emotional toll on adult migrants and children alike, according to research by the UN Children’s Fund and the World Bank. The trauma of leaving familiar surroundings, loved ones and friends can lead to anxiety, depression and a sense of loss of control.
Local government officials and do-gooders like transgender activist Grecia Herrera in the past three years have scrambled to procure housing and psychological help for the tens of thousands of international citizens and displaced Mexicans that have come to Juarez in that time.
They know the stress of displacement, compounded by traumatic and often violent experiences during the trip to the border, can flare during the holidays.
That’s why Herrera, a licensed nurse, periodically brings in psychologists and other health workers to her RespetTrans shelter. The refuge started as a haven for transgender migrants, most of whom have crossed over into the United States or found homes in this and other Mexican cities. Those who remain act as hosts and helpers for the families who make the bulk of the guests now.
“We have 80 women here now and most of them are moms,” Herrera said. “We are trying to ease their burden and will celebrate them, as our limited means allow, this coming Mother’s Day,” she said.
Other Juarez shelters like Good Samaritan, Casa del Migrante and Leona Vicario collectively host hundreds of individuals and family units.
Herrera highlights the respect and warmth migrants from diverse parts of the hemisphere – she has people from Cuba to Guatemala – share with each other.
“The emotional wounds they carry are deep, but they all try to make the best of it with people they know have gone through similar situations,” she said.
For more information on the shelter, email Herrera at firstname.lastname@example.org