When I first moved to Mexico City, I was surprised to find not only East Africans who had moved to Mexico for work, but also communities of South Americans and Eastern Europeans. Unexpectedly, Mexico has one of the most open immigrant and refugee policies in the world. It admits a record number of people fleeing crises in Central America and the Caribbean, including the people no one else wants: Haitians. The U.S. and Haiti have been in a tug of war for the past year over the thousands of Haitians awaiting deportation from the United States.
In Mexico, the picture is strikingly different. Thousands of Haitians, Cubans, Guatemalans, El Salvadorans, Nicaraguans and Hondurans walk the streets south of the border, but they don’t have to worry about hasty deportation, random raids or overcrowded detention centers (unless they’re on Mexico’s borders). But all is not perfect. These immigrants also endure racism, job discrimination and economic hardship — a situation that is not too far from the lives they left behind. While they have escaped political persecution and praise Mexico for its flawed but welcoming policy, some of the country’s largest immigrant groups face a double-edged sword of refuge and prejudice. In a cruel slice of irony, their lives mirror those of many poor Mexican immigrants in the United States.
Photo by Alice Smeets