MEXICO

Mexico in the Trump era: “Migrants have always been scared, but more so now”

Mexicans applying for US visas share their concerns about the future following Republican’s victory

Even Mexicans with US citizenship wonder how they will be treated under Trump.
Even Mexicans with US citizenship wonder how they will be treated under Trump.FELIPE CHACÓN / EFE

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Behind the US embassy in Mexico City, a concrete wall symbolizes the first hurdle on the road to the American dream.

Standing on the other side, a hundred or so Mexicans wait for their appointment, their hands full of documents and their eyes filled with fear.

Getting a US visa was never easy, but on this particular Wednesday, applicants know that Donald Trump and his racist message have won the US election.

It might be that the American dream is now in Canada

Antolina Benítez, lawyer

On this cold, grey day, you could cut the tension with a knife. And a question lingers in the air: “Will that man do everything he has promised?”

“We migrants have always been afraid. But now more than ever,” explains Pedro Muñoz, 50, who is from the southern state of Oaxaca.

Muñoz once lived in the US illegally and was ultimately deported back home. Now, he advises fellow Mexicans wishing to cross the border legally.

“This man’s victory is going to make people think twice before risking their lives in an illegal crossing,” he says. “But let me tell you right now that they will continue to do so. The misery and the hardship is what drives people to take the leap, Trump or no Trump.”

Hilda Fuentes helped relatives obtain their US visa on Wednesday.
Hilda Fuentes helped relatives obtain their US visa on Wednesday.

The debate about Trump’s controversial wall sounds old here, among other things because the wall has been in place for decades – not just as a border fence, but also in the shape of the reinforced doors of this impenetrable embassy.

For the Mexicans standing in line here today, the main concerns are the price of the dollar, whether their relatives’ remittances will arrive in time, and whether they will be able to visit their children in the US without being treated like criminals.

Antolina Benítez, 34, sits on a bench as she waits her turn. “When he won Florida, I realized that this was for real. My first thoughts were for my relatives who live there,” she says in concerned tones. “Some people are thinking about moving back, because we don’t know just how much their rights are going to be limited. One of my sisters, who has no papers, is thinking about it – with everything that entails, especially the dream of giving her children a better future.”

“The problem is that Trump’s message was not just aimed at immigrants. It was also aimed at those already living there, who are already US citizens and who are going to suffer racism,” says Ernestina Velasco, 34. “Some of my relatives in Georgia have told me they are worried about being overheard speaking in Spanish.”

“It might be that the American dream is now in Canada,” muses Benítez, who is a lawyer. “Certainly, the US will no longer be the first option.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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