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Saturday, February 4, 2023

US: Shelters try to help migrant victims

Ciudad Juárez, Mexico ( Associated Press) — Since starting two months ago working weekends as a volunteer at a clinic in one of the largest shelters in this Mexican border city, Dr. Brian Elmore has helped nearly 100 migrants is taken care of. A handful of more serious emergencies.

But what worries them most is a problem they have failed to address: the deep trauma that so many migrants carry with them after the long journey north, often witnessing murders and kidnappings and sexual assaults. Being the victim of an assault is included.

“Most of our patients have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. I want to initiate a review for every patient,” said Elmore, an emergency physician at the Hope Clinic. It was a few months ago that the Catholic nonprofit organization Hope Borders Institute with the help of Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, which borders Ciudad Juarez.

Doctors, social workers, shelter directors, chaplains and police say a growing number of migrants are coming to the US-Mexico border in urgent need of medical and mental health treatment due to trauma and being subjected to the equivalent of violence.

But resources for this highly specialized care are so limited, and shelter networks so overwhelmed with new arrivals and migrants who have been stuck for months because of US asylum restrictions, that only the most severe cases can be dealt with.

“As a 13-year-old pregnant woman who fled gang rape and therefore needs child care and help in high school,” said Juri Reyes Borrero, case manager at the Center for Victims of Torture in Arizona. Birth. “We get people at their most vulnerable. Some don’t even know they’re in America.”

In the past six months, Reyes Borrero and a colleague have helped nearly 100 migrants at Casa Alitas, a shelter in Tucson, Arizona, run by Catholic Community Services, bring Americans from different countries until December. About 700 people were being released daily by the authorities. as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mexico.

Reyes Borrero said each visit can take hours, as caseworkers try to establish rapport with the migrants, focusing on reinvigorating them.

“This is not a community where there is peaceful conversation … They can have no memory of safety,” said Sarah Howell, who runs a practice and nonprofit in Houston that serves migrants. who survived the torture.

When you visit patients in your new communities in Texas, you are constantly introduced to relatives or neighbors who need help because of severe trauma, but lack the stability and security needed to heal .

“The estimated level of need is at least five times what we support,” said Leonas Biimana, director of US Clinical Services at the Center for Victims of Torture, which operates clinics in Arizona, Georgia and Minnesota.

Baiimana said most migrants were shocked by what they left behind, as well as what they found along the way. They need “mental health first aid” as well as long-term care, which is even more difficult to arrange after being moved from shelters to border areas in communities across the country, he said.

Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Esperanza Border Institute, said that if left untreated, the shock could escalate to the point of requiring psychiatric care rather than treatment and self-help.

Jesuit Refugee Service/United States, the US branch of the global Catholic refugee agency, said it plans to ramp up resources for mental health in the coming weeks in El Paso, where migrant crossings have increased, its director Joan Rosenhauer said.

Along the entire range, the most notable trend has been in the number of pregnant women and girls, some under the age of 15, who are victims of abuse and domestic violence.

Volunteers and activists are facing so many of these survivors that they have had to focus their meager legal, medical and shelter resources on helping them, leaving the hundreds of other victims of political violence and organized crime to fend for themselves. has given.

Service providers and migrants say the most dangerous place in the journey, fraught with perils at every step, is “the jungle”: El Darien, a roadless zone that separates Colombia from Panama, which most people cross on foot. Venezuelans, Cubans, and Haitians who first came to South America are now trying to make a more secure life in the United States.

Added to natural risks such as poisonous snakes and rivers are areas plagued by bandits that harbor migrants. Months after fleeing Cuba, Loretta Salgado crossed over to Darien.

“We saw many deaths, we saw people who were robbed, we saw people who were raped. We saw them,” he repeated in a broken voice at a migrant shelter in El Paso just days before Christmas.

Howell said that when asked about the woods, some of the women simply held their breath, later revealing that they saved their daughters by speeding away and raping themselves, or after being forced to watch the rape. Had to endure strained relationships with their partners.

“I don’t think many of the women I talked to have experienced rape firsthand. But it’s the most violent and the most embarrassing, because it was in front of other people,” Howell said.

In many cases, forensic evaluations at border clinics that document mental and physical abuse are also important for migrants’ asylum cases, as other evidence is often not available for court proceedings, Biimana said. Asylum is granted to people who cannot return to their home countries for fear of persecution on specific grounds, which sometimes includes very high systematic levels of violence against women.

But asylum cases take years to resolve in US immigration courts, and there is currently a backlog of more than 1.5 million people, according to Syracuse University’s Transaction Records Access Information Center. And this coupled with restrictions still in place from the time of the pandemic allow authorities to reject or deport the majority of asylum seekers.

Advocates say the long wait for resolution after long journeys to multiple countries can intensify the trauma migrants experience.

“There’s a different tension and fear in the faces than I’ve seen before,” said Howell, who has researched trauma and forced migration for 15 years. “They don’t know how to stop running.”


Associated Press writer Morgan Lee in El Paso contributed to this report.


The Associated Press’ religious coverage is supported through the Associated Press’s partnership with The Conversation US, with funding from the Lilly Endowment Inc. Associated Press is solely responsible for this content.

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