Hogar Franciscano is a team of committed lay people and franciscan friars that support migrants on their way through Cholula, providing meals and distributing groceries to the shelters that make up the Puebla State Shelter Network.

When the health emergency was declared in Mexico by the Secretary of Health, various agreements and protocols were implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19. In this context, on April 16, 2020, the First Administrative Judge in Mexico City set an important precedent at the national level by ordering the administrative authorities, including the National Institute of Migration, to take the necessary measures for the protection of the life and health of migrants, asylum seekers or international protection applicants in the immigration stations.

Some of the orders indicated by the said judge are the following:

  1. Implement actions necessary to detect people with possible symptoms of COVID-19 within the immigration stations;
  2. Guarantee the human right to health of people interned in immigration stations;
  3. Elaborate a detailed report regarding the numbers of people who are detained at immigration stations;
  4. Immediately release people held in immigration stations who belong to vulnerable populations.
  5. Grant temporary residency rights that include access to health and social benefits.

In this context, on April 26, 2020, the National Migration Institute (INM) issued a statement (INM, 2020), in which it was reported that during the month of March,759 migrants had stayed in shelters and immigration stations, 3,653 were deported by land to Guatemala and by air to Honduras and El Salvador, with priority given to vulnerable populations such as children and adolescents, the elderly, pregnant women, people with chronic diseases and families. Likewise, he recognized the work of the shelters that housing migrants nationally.

It should be noted that there is no precise data on the health and safe transfer protocols with which the deportations have been carried out, as well as the figures of how many COVID-19 tests were carried out within the migration stations or shelters, in the same way, It is not established how many temporary visas or visitor permits have been granted to undocumented migrants, despite the request made in May by one of our collaborators of the JPIC of Mexico, Puebla, to the INAI (National Institute of Transparency).

With these actions, it is evidenced that the Mexican administrative authorities have ignored what is established by both the Political Constitution of Mexico, international treaties and, in practice, what was ordered by the constitutional judge who granted the aforementioned protection in advance, omissions that have been made evident by the Human Mobility Pastoral Program (Pastoral de Movilidad Humana) and various NGOs.

With the release of the migrants who were detained in the different immigration stations and those deported from the United States to Mexico, approximately 800 migrants have been reported to be living on the streets in the State of Puebla, with an estimated national level of approximately 60,000 transmigrants (Velásco, 2020) who are stranded by border closure policies taken to prevent the spread of the virus.

With these figures, there is evidence of ignorance on the part of the authorities regarding the situation of the shelters in the national territory, some of which have had to close and others that lack sufficient resources to provide adequate services, since the resources are often obtained through parishioners who currently are not attending services due to the public health restrictions established by the state governments.

As Pope Francis says in his Urbi et Orbi message: “This is not the time to be forgotten. The crisis we are facing does not make us put aside so many other emergency situations that carry with them the suffering of many people.” The Hogar Franciscano team took on the task of going out to the crossroads to meet our migrant brothers, to serve them a lunch and let them know that they were present, not as numbers, but as our brothers.

Unfortunately, the opportunity for this encounter was diminished by the prejudices of the authorities, who like Herod in persecuting the child Jesus, persecuted the migrants who then fled to the streets where they could panhandle as windshield wipers to earn some coins in order to continue on their way.

The lack of transparency on the part of the Mexican government coupled with a non-existent migration policy that protects the rights of migrants, has caused greater invisibility before society and local, state and federal authorities. Proof of this is the protection that was promoted and that recognized their rights. But despite this great triumph, the authorities, supposedly “in compliance with what was ordered,” have left the migrants to their fate, without taking into account the cross-cutting effects and consequences that migration implies.

Against this background, we should point out that the pandemic has exposed the great vulnerability of migrants as well as the lack of interest on the part of governments to provide them with support in times of crisis such as the one we are experiencing, and that they are considered as stateless persons lacking rights.

With this crisis, we confirm the urgency on the part of the Mexican State to have a transversal migration policy, with hybrid projects in which the different countries involved can participate. Similarly, we insist that there is an urgent need to put the issue of migration on the table in talks with the United States, and not just give concessions to the demands of said government.

As men and women of faith and animated by the charism of Saint Francis, we recognize that migrants are the new “lepers” of an exclusive and dehumanized society and we adhere to the compassionate and merciful manner that Saint Francis had with the lepers of his time. That action full of mercy that gives the leper his face back, as well as his dignity and his humanity.

Therefore, we call on society and all people of good will to respond to the call of Pope Francis in his message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2020, to recognize in our migrant brothers, “the face of Christ, hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, a stranger and in prison, who challenges us (cf. Mt 25,31-46). If we recognize him, we will be the ones who will thank him for having known, loved and served him ”. We must learn to see Christ himself in the person of our brothers in need. Let’s not miss the many opportunities we have to help.

Elida Beatriz Calixto Toxqui
Hogar Franciscano
Cholula, Puebla, Mexico