A group of roughly 80 LGBTQ migrants separated from the much larger Central American caravan heading north, and were among the first to arrive at the U.S. border on Sunday (November 10). The group— which includes people who identify as lesbian, gay and transgender—took a bus to coastal border city Tijuana, where they held a press conference in front of their rented Airbnb in Playas de Tijuana.
Group leaders detailed some of the discrimination they all faced throughout their journey north. Honduran migrant Cesar Mejia told reporters the group endured weeks of discriminatory treatment by locals and members of the larger caravan. "Whenever we arrived at a stopping point, the LGBTQ community was the last to be taken into account in every way," Mejia said. "So our goal was to change that and say, ‘This time we are going to be first.’"
"People wouldn’t let us into trucks," added Erick Dubon. "They made us get in the back of the line for showers, they would call us ugly names." Dubon, 23, is from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and traveling with his boyfriend, Pedro Nehemias, 22.
As a result of their shared challenges, the LGBTQ migrants were drawn together and began to organize. Univision reports that they connected with various American and Mexican LGBTQ organizations and were able to raise enough money to secure bus tickets to Tijuana, as well as a four-bedroom rental home. "When we entered Mexican territory, those organizations began to help us," Mejia explained. "We did not contact them; they learned from our group thanks to the media and decided to help us."
Andy Albaringa, a trans woman from El Salvador, expressed relief that their journey was coming to an end. "I cannot believe we actually made it here to the border," she said. "The trip was so tiring."
A majority of the migrants plan on using their status as members of a persecuted class to request asylum in the U.S. as early as Thursday (November 15), The Washington Post reports. "We want to do things in order, in the right way," Mejia told journalists. He said they want to request asylum at the San Ysidro or Otay Mesa ports of entry. "We are waiting for our representatives," he insisted.
Processing these requests could be extremely delayed because, according to The Post, U.S. Customs and Border Protection plans to close four lanes at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa border crossings, which is among "the most heavily traveled ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border." The organization released a statement saying U.S. troops are putting up "concertina wire, barricades and fencing."
César Palencia, director of the Tijuana Municipal Migration Affairs Office, tells the outlet the agency isn’t sure how they will handle the thousands of migrants expected to arrive at the border in the next few weeks—especially because shelter space in the city only has room for 900 people. "We are expecting more of these little groups, but we don’t know right now exactly what we are going to do with the big caravan," he said. "But we will make room."
So far, the LGBTQ group has been met with hostility from some of their new neighbors in Tijuana, reports The Post. "A few of the migrants left to go buy a couple of things, and they were harassed and insulted in the street," local police officer Santiago Alvarez said. Others have been "knocking on the door, shouting things, telling them to leave."