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Record Number Of African Migrants Heading To U.S. Through Mexico

By  Ashe Schow
A group of migrants from Cameroon return to Guatemala on rafts on July 4, 2019 in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico.
Cristopher Rogel Blanquet/Getty Images

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of African migrants attempting to travel into the U.S. through Mexico.

In 2007, the Mexican government started keeping records on migrants from countries in Africa. At that time, The Los Angeles Times reported, an annual immigration report included 460 migrants from Africa. In 2018, that number was roughly 2,700 and in 2019 it doubled to about 5,800. From the Times:

And that dramatic increase has been mostly left out of U.S. immigration conversations, activists say.

“Even within the immigration movement, you see a lack of visibility of black narratives with what is happening at the border,” said Guerline Jozef, director and co-founder of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, an organization that helps black migrants from all over the world.

Jozef was initially caught off-guard by the number of black migrants south of the border.

Jozef told the outlet that in 2016 she met with a group of Haitian migrants in Tijuana, which was unusual since Florida was the typical migration route for Caribbean migrants. At the time she met with 12 Haitian migrants. After a month in the area, she counted more than 400 migrants from Haiti and Congo, Cameroon, and Sierra Leone.

“Now, almost four years later, we have thousands and thousands of black migrants,” she told the outlet.

The Times reported that the vast majority of those who travel through Mexico to the U.S. border are from Central America, and that the journey for black migrants from Africa is especially difficult. From the Times:

The journey isn’t easy, many of them are robbed and beaten while traveling north.

On top of these dangers, African migrants face additional obstacles in terms of language and cultural barriers. They also have less access to services from legal aid organizations who do not have staff who speak the same language as the migrants.

They also face racism and discrimination because of the color of their skin, Jozef added.

The migrants from Africa are now unable to even reach the U.S. border, as the Mexican government no longer provides transit visas to travel to the border. This has resulted in the migrants camping out in front of the immigration building in Tijuana “because they literally have nowhere else to go,” immigration lawyer Rebecca Alemayehu told the Times.

Even with the situation at the border and in Mexico, African migrants continue to travel to Mexico to attempt passage into the U.S.

The Congressional Black Caucus had noted the increasing numbers of black migrants and their unique plight, writing in a statement that the number appears to be increasing “as Europe closes its doors to migrants.”

Alemayehu also tole the Times that the migrants can’t simply stay in Mexico because of the dangers they face there.

“A lot of them are getting robbed, beat up and mistreated there,” she told the outlet.

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