A group of LGBTQ asylum seekers who split off from the larger migrant caravan have arrived at the U.S. border.
Around 80 migrants, the majority of whom identify as LGBTQ, made it to Tijuana on Sunday, where they have been met with hostility and fear, while facing an uncertain future. They are the first of more than 3,600 Central Americans to arrive at the border, NPR reports, after splintering off in Mexico City after weeks of harsh treatment from others in the group, as well as townsfolk along the way.
The LGBTQ faction, which includes Hondurans, Guatemalans, Nicaraguans, and Salvadorans, a few of whom are children, began to form on its own due to the verbal harassment, and thanks to aide from U.S. and Mexico-based advocacy groups are weeks ahead of the rest of the migrants.
“Whenever we arrived at a stopping point the LGBT community was the last to be taken into account in every way,” Honduran migrant Cesar Mejia told reporters. “So our goal was to change that and say, ’This time we are going to be first.'”
RAICES, an organizations offering legal services to immigrants and refugees, said it had raised the funds for bus tickets, lodging, and legal representation, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.
“Going back would put me at risk,” said 27 year-old transgender woman Nelsi Teresa Ponce of Honduras. “Back there, we are not welcome, we could not leave our houses.”
While the situation in Tijuana appears to be an improvement over the lives they are escaping, there are concerns as to how long they can remain there, with discrimination and fear creating a toxic environment.
“They’re being attacked by the town,” Fergie Bibiana Andersen, of the advocacy group Diversidad sin Fronteras, which has also been serving in a support role for the LGBTQ refugees, told Reuters.
“They (attackers) are filled with hate. They’re racist people who think (the migrants) are going to just stay there.”
“We have certainly identified them as one of the most vulnerable groups within the context of mobility,” stressed Carolina Jimenez, research director for the Americas at Amnesty International.
“We want to do things in order, in the right way,” Mejia said, noting the group was waiting for legal representation before requesting asylum at the San Ysidro or Otay Mesa ports of entry.
The chances of that request being warmly greeted by the Trump administration is slim, however, given the rhetoric of fear the president has invoked around the caravan, painting members of it as dangerous criminals. The Trump campaign even created a racist and misleading campaign ad, attempting to use the situation to prevent Democrats from winning big on election night.
While that talk has been toned down now that the midterms have passed, the U.S. is still preparing anything but a warm welcome, erecting barricades and laying down barbed wire at the border.
On Friday, Trump signed a decree making it more difficult for anyone who crosses the border illegally to gain asylum. That is expected to slow down the process at ports of entry, which have already been overwhelmed.
The United States has reportedly been hesitant to grant asylum to LGBTQ people fleeing abuses, including multiple claims of murder, in Chechnya, which further suggests an uphill battle for those looking to have their concerns of facing continued abuse back in their home countries given a serious hearing by officials.