Gustavo Solis, San Diego Union Tribune, December 8, 2019
The number of African migrants heading to the U.S. through Mexico has more than doubled this year — from roughly 2,700 in 2018 to 5,800 today, according to data from the federal government.
That figure has been steadily rising since 2007 — the year the Mexican government began including migrants from African countries who have contact with immigration officials in their annual migration reports — when the number was 460.
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.
In 2016 she didn’t know how to respond to a call she got about a group of Haitian migrants in Tijuana.
“At the time, honestly, I did not believe it,” she said.
But she went anyway and met with 12 Haitian migrants. She stayed a month and counted more than 400 Black migrants not just from Haiti but from Congo, Cameroon and Sierra Leone as well.
African migrants face additional obstacles in the way 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.
In August, the Mexican government stopped issuing African migrants transit visas that allow them to travel north to the U.S.-Mexico border. Instead, officials are asking migrants to apply for residency or a visa in Mexico.
African migrants continue to arrive at the Mexico-Guatemala border every day and there is no sign that the flow will slow down.
Here in the U.S., the plight of Black migrants has gained traction among some elected officials.
In November, members of the Congressional Black Caucus visited Black migrants at the border.
“There are record numbers of African immigrants seeking asylum at the U.S. border, particularly as Europe closes its doors to migrants,” they wrote in a statement.
The representatives met with 30 migrants from counties like Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and Haiti. They shared stories of companions dying along the trek from Ecuador to Mexico and racially-motivated mistreatment, including segregated food lines and denial of medical services.