Since the introduction of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) – also known as “Remain in Mexico” – in 2019, asylum seekers seeking to enter the US via the US-Mexico border must wait in Mexico for the duration of their US immigration court proceedings.
As a result of this policy, thousands of migrants and asylum seekers found themselves sleeping on the streets near the border. Gradually, a camp of approximately 3,000 to 4,000 people began to form on the banks of the River Grande that separates the northern Mexican town of Matamoros from the Texan town of Brownsville.
Its inhabitants come from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela and – even though Mexicans are exempt from the MPP – Mexico.
With all court hearings suspended since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the camp’s residents have repeatedly had to present at the US border – waiting for hours in line with no ability to physically distance – only to be told to return a few weeks later. The closure of the courts means that Mexicans, too, must wait.
Some have crossed into the US, hoping to live undetected by the immigration authorities, others have moved into apartments near the camp. Some have risked returning home. “If I’m going to die, I at least want to die in my own country” is an expression commonly heard here.
Some 800 people remain in what is now a tightly policed camp enclosed by a tall razor-wire topped fence.
Here, some of the remaining residents discuss life in the camp and what the US elections may mean for them:
Dison, 53, from Honduras: ‘We all want Biden to win’
Dison is a born leader. He has an imposing presence, a calm voice that quietly commands respect and the sort of mischief in his eyes that suggests he has a private joke running through his mind. His partner, Antonia, points out: “It’s his eyes. I fell for him when I first saw his eyes.”
In Honduras, Dison was a spiritual leader, although he now lives with Antonia in the camp in Matamoros, admittedly in one of its more sophisticated structures. Sitting on a makeshift porch with plastic lining on the floor to provide a space for children to play, he smiles and dismisses a question about his age, although he later confesses to being 53.
Like most residents of the camp, Dison lives in a tent, but he has built a wooden structure, lined with tarpaulin, the size of a double garage. It gives the sense that the tents were erected inside a home, for fun rather than need.
When asked what he has learned from his experience in the camp, Dison answers simply: “The value of life.”
Bodies are sometimes found in the River Grande, which runs alongside the camp, separating Mexico from the US. At least one of those bodies belonged to a camp resident, 20-year-old Guatemalan Edwin Rodrigo Castro de la Parra who was found in August.
While the official cause of death is usually cited as drowning, residents in the camp know not to cross the river without paying the gangs who control it.
“Would you ever want to pay to cross illegally?” I ask Dison.
“Never,” he says definitively. “What’s the point?”
“I want to start a business, I want to pay taxes and be free to earn as much as I can. If I crossed illegally I would be in the same position as I was in Honduras with no bank account, no ability to buy a house, nothing like that.”
The conversation moves naturally to the US elections. “We all want Biden to win,” he says. “He will be good for America. The US needs a capable man and Joe Biden appears to be backed up by people who are conscious of previous mistakes made by Obama. Everything in the world could change with Biden.”
Adrian, 26, from Honduras: ‘I can’t go back’
It is hard to value Adrian’s real estate in the camp: a small patch of earth between the toilets and the showers. On the one hand, he has the convenience of the facilities being so close by but on the other hand, on the days when the toilets have not been emptied (or when they are being emptied) the hot stench of sewage comes in waves.
Adrian sits in the shade at a little table outside his tent. As he chats, his pregnant wife carefully tiptoes back to their tent, dripping from a recent shower.
Adrian and his family have been in the camp for 10 months, although he has no real friends here to talk of. He has struggled to make connections in the camp because he does not know who to trust. He knows to avoid the river and anyone who claims to own it, but he is also worried that other people may be passing information back to organised crime gangs.
The camp used to be organised by elected leaders of the eight nations who live in the camp: Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela. However, with the pandemic and the subsequent closure of the asylum hearings, many people, including most of the leaders, have left the camp.
Adrian has been helping to fill that void and organise the camp. “We have to unite to get things done,” he explains. “We regularly talk and discuss what is needed … We hope to God that Biden wins the election. Trump doesn’t want us here.”
“What will you do if Trump wins?” I ask him.
“We have to keep fighting,” he says simply. “I can’t go back. It’s too dangerous for me.” With that, he lifts his shirt to reveal his badly scarred stomach. One long scar runs down from his belly button and next to it sits a healed bullet wound.
“I was shot three times in two thousand and …” he starts to explain.
“When was I shot?” he calls out to his wife who, now dry, is swinging in a nearby hammock.
“24 January 2019,” she responds without hesitation.
Adrian was not involved with gangs. His crime was having an honest job on the street and the personal items that come with employment: a mobile phone, a bike and some cash. He was selling lottery tickets and the attackers wanted his belongings – it was as simple as that, he says.
Ernesto, 30, from Cuba: ‘I have built friendships that will outlast this place’
Ernesto is a 30-year-old Cuban medic who divides his time between the Global Response Management medical clinic in the camp and the local hospital in Matamoros. He is a trained gynaecologist but is equally happy practising general medicine.
He sits in the shaded waiting area by the camp’s clinic during a moment of downtime between patients. Other nurses, translators and volunteers buzz around as he talks about his life in Matamoros.
Ernesto has not applied for asylum in the US. Instead, he says he is waiting for a time when migrants will be allowed in. “Now is not a favourable time for migrants. I’m going to stay here until they sort this huge migratory problem.” There are many in the camp who think that the US will apply a policy of blanket rejection to anyone still waiting for asylum when the courts reopen after the pandemic.
Ernesto is one of the luckier ones. He only visits the camp for his shifts in the clinic. He has found two jobs, lives in an apartment, and is still able to visit Cuba.
While the security situation in Cuba is not like that of other Central American countries, Ernesto describes a state that subjects its citizens to technological surveillance and psychological control.
“In Cuba, we don’t live in the real world,” he says. “The world that we learn isn’t real. When you leave, it hits you because you have been living in a fantasy, an ideology that isn’t real. And when you leave and notice the lie, it shocks you.”
“When I got to Mexico, I saw a protest. I thought it was fantastic that people were able to freely protest on the streets.”
Ernesto says he cannot tell people at home about the “outside world”.
“They see everything you write, everything you say,” he says of the Cuban authorities.
“If you go back to Cuba, as soon as you get off the plane, it comes back to you,” he adds.
The stress etched on to his face begins to disappear as he discusses the Cuban support system in Matamoros. It is stronger than anything he has experienced before, he explains.
“I have built friendships that will outlast this place,” he says. “We’ll be friends forever.”
People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.
between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters in Montreal was condemned by
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
city police force intervened and declared the protests illegal after tensions
heightened and clashes broke out.
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of clashes.
– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday condemned the violence and
“despicable rhetoric” that marked several weekend protests throughout
the country, after clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters in
worst violence in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, is raging between the
Jewish state and Islamist militants.
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of deadly clashes.
after protests in Montreal, Trudeau condemned what he said was “despicable
rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend”.
Everyone has the right to assemble peacefully and express themselves freely in Canada – but we cannot and will not tolerate antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind. We strongly condemn the despicable rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend.
insisting on the “right to assemble peacefully and express themselves
freely in Canada”, Trudeau stressed in a tweet that there was no tolerance
for “antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind”.
on Sunday, Montreal police used tear gas following clashes between pro-Israel
and pro-Palestinian protesters.
hundred demonstrators, draped in Israeli flags, had gathered in a central
Montreal square to express solidarity with the Jewish state.
‘Protesting is a right’
the protest started peacefully, tensions ratcheted up with the arrival of
pro-Palestinian demonstrators and clashes soon broke out.
SPVM, Montreal’s city police force, declared the protests illegal, and squads
of riot police intervened, using tear gas to separate and disperse the two
groups, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.
police spent much of the afternoon in pursuit of the pro-Palestinian
protesters, who spread out and regrouped in commercial streets in the city centre.
the clashes, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Twitter that
“protesting is a right”, but that “intolerance, violence and
anti-Semitism have no place here”.
Montreal is a city of peace.
thousand pro-Palestinian demonstrators had gathered on Saturday in central
Montreal to denounce what they said were Israeli repression and “war
crimes” in Gaza.
Israel”, some protesters chanted, while others held up a banner that read,
“Stop the genocide of Palestinian children”.
protests happened the same day in multiple Canadian cities, including Toronto,
Ottawa and Vancouver.
“A new app is offering you the chance to do just that.”
When writer Brandon Wong recently couldn’t decide what takeaway to order one evening, he asked his followers on social media app NewNew to choose for him. Those that wanted to get involved in the 24-year-old’s dinner dilemma paid $5 (£3.50) to vote in a poll, and the majority verdict was that he should go for Korean food, so that was what he bought…
NewNew is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Courtne Smith. The app, which is still in its “beta” or pre-full release stage, describes itself as “a human stock market where you buy shares in the lives of real people, in order to control their decisions and watch the outcome”. For many of us that sounds a bit ominous, but the reality is actually far less alarming. It is aimed at what it calls “creators” — writers, painters, musicians, fashion designers, bloggers etc. It is designed as a way for them to connect far more closely with their fans or followers than on other social media services and, importantly, monetise that connection…
Whenever a vote is cast the creator gets the money minus NewNew’s undisclosed commission… In addition to voting, followers can also pay extra — from $20 — to ask a NewNew creator to do something of their choosing, such as naming a character in a book after them. But the creator can reject all of these “bids”, and if they do so then the follower doesn’t have to part with the money…
Co-founder and chief executive Ms Smith, a 33-year-old Canadian, has big plans for NewNew, and has some heavyweight backers. Investors include Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, and the first outside person to put money into Facebook. Others with a stake in the business include leading US tech investment fund Andreessen Horowitz, and Hollywood actor Will Smith (no relation to Courtne). Snapchat has also given technical support.
Saker was Australia’s bowling coach when Bancroft was caught trying to rough up the ball with sandpaper during the third Test against South Africa.
While refusing to be drawn on who knew what, Saker said “the finger-pointing is going to go on and on and on”.
“It’s like the underarm, it’s never going to go away,” he told Fairfax Media, referring to a 1981 incident when Trevor Chappell bowled underarm to ensure New Zealand lost a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The notorious delivery is still cited in New Zealand and in cricketing circles as a prime example of unsporting conduct.
However, the ball-tampering scandal – dubbed “sandpapergate” – had a greater impact on Australian cricket, with the then-captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner suspended for a year from all cricket and stripped of their leadership roles.
Darren Lehmann also quit as coach and all the top brass from Cricket Australia left after a scathing review blasted their “arrogant and controlling” win-at-all-costs culture.
No one else among the team or coaching staff was held to account but Bancroft’s remarks in an interview with The Guardian newspaper hinted that the team’s bowlers at least knew about the plan.
“Obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,” he said.
Saker added: “There was a lot of people to blame. It could have been me to blame, it could have been someone else. It could have been stopped and it wasn’t, which is unfortunate.
“Cameron’s a very nice guy. He’s just doing it to get something off his chest … He’s not going to be the last.”
In response, Cricket Australia said that if anyone had new information, they would look into it.
Saker said he was not opposed to a fresh investigation but added “I just don’t know what they’re going to find out.”
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Washington – Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Florida, after fellow contestant Miss Myanmar used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.
Sunday night marked the Miss Universe competition’s return to television, after the pageant was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Andrea Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a flashy televised event, hosted by American actor Mario Lopez and television personality Olivia Culpo.
Former Miss Universe contestants Cheslie Kryst, Paulina Vega and Demi-Leigh Tebow (who won the title in 2017) served as competition analysts and commentators, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.
Dressed in a sparkling red evening gown, Meza tearfully walked the catwalk as Miss Universe for the first time, before rushing back for a group hug with the other competitors.
Meza beat more than 70 contestants from around the globe in the 69th installment of Miss Universe, which was held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
In the days leading up to the final competition, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, who made the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to bring attention to the coup in her country.
“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said during her biographical video, which showed photos of her taking part in the anti-coup protests. “Therefore I would like to urge everyone to speak out about Myanmar.”
She also won the award for best national costume: during that competition segment on Thursday, she wore an outfit beaded in traditional Burmese patterns and held up a sign that said, “Pray for Myanmar.”
Myanmar has been in uproar since February 1, when the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
At least 796 people have been killed by security forces since then, according to a local monitoring group, while nearly 4 000 people are behind bars.
Miss Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong – who did not make the top 21 – also used the national costume portion to make a political statement.
Dressed in a glittering red bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, she turned around to reveal her cape – in the colours of the Singaporean flag – was painted with the words “Stop Asian Hate.”
“What is this platform for if I can’t use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence?” she wrote on Instagram alongside pictures of her outfit.
The United States in particular has seen a surge in anti-Asian violence in the past year, which activists have blamed on former president Donald Trump’s rhetoric, especially his repeated description of Covid-19 as the “China virus.”
The pageant has also drawn criticism in the past for objectifying the contestants.
In recent years, the competition has shifted image, focusing more on female empowerment and activism.