Here is the interview of the month:
What does the organization Al Otro Lado?
We do many things, on the border of the United States and Mexico we provide orientation and legal support to migrants who want to request asylum in the United States.
We also provide informational workshops to migrant shelter residents, learn from the information they provide us, and collect it for collaborative reporting with other organizations to the United States Congress and international organizations dedicated to monitoring compliance with their human rights.
We are heavily involved in litigation and class action lawsuits, as well as other litigation projects against the United States government for human rights violations of migrants at the border.
What does the right of access to justice represent for the migrant population?
First, it is access to correct information about the system. Many migrants operate in a system without knowing what the rules are that apply to their cases, what their rights are, and how, despite this, the authorities can try to violate them. It is important for migrants to know exactly what strategies or places to turn to to protect their rights or fight for the rights that were violated.
More than anything it is access to information and access to the process, in recent years we have seen how the United States and Mexican governments have taken actions to limit access to the processes so that they can request asylum in Mexico and the United States. Without a doubt, the most important thing is information and unlimited access.
How does Al Otro Lado work to guarantee compliance with the migrant population’s right of access to information?
We have a system where we give workshops in eight shelters in Tijuana, every month we have a virtual information session for migrants who are not in shelters, but are in other parts of the border, we give those workshops in Spanish, English, French and Creole, this is important because access to information depends on the person understanding that we are offering information in their mother tongue.
We have online resources, a Tik Tok account, another page where we post ads explaining what the current policies are at the border and how those policies impact your right to seek asylum or put the lives of families and people at risk alone traveling to seek asylum.
In addition, we have five class action lawsuits at this time against the United States government for violations of rights that we see when we work with migrants and the employers that are more common.
What do you consider to be the importance of complying with the right of access to justice for the migrant population?
It is more difficult to push a person and violate their rights when they are well informed and feel empowered, it is more difficult to force that person to take an action that is not in their interests or force them to think that they have no rights.
When we are giving information, educating people and trying to give them that feeling of “I have rights and I am going to fight for my rights”, I think it is more difficult for the government to meet the goal that people get desperate and leave.
What are the main challenges in fulfilling the right of access to information for the migrant population?
The lack of resources is one of the main challenges. There are more migrants, with more needs than the number of organizations that provide services to help, all struggling with the lack of resources and lack of personnel to serve migrants.
Another very big challenge is the governments of the United States and Mexico, because both continue to take actions against the interests of defenders who are working with the migrant community to make us feel uncomfortable or in danger, that is why there is a lack of people who want to do this job, nobody wants to be on a watch list, nobody wants a GPS under their car, the government does these things to minimize the group of people who are willing to help.
What has been the impact on your life of working to defend the human rights of the migrant population?
I cannot have a normal life, I cannot go out with my friends, and for example drink, I have to be very careful for my safety, I never know when someone is spying on me, if that person is from the government or from organized crime, because our work is against the interests of organized crime, since we are informing people how they can enter the United States without using a “coyote”.
More than anything I have to think a lot about my privacy and especially my security.
All the human rights violations that are committed by the United States government could not happen without the complicity of the Mexican government.
I love Mexico, I have residence here, I almost never cross into the United States, they have to deport me and get me out of here, it hurts me a lot that they act against the interests of their own citizens, because there are many people from Michoacán and Guerrero who only want to leave of the country and arrive with their families here to feel safe and they cannot because the government is acting against them in collaboration with the United States government.