A Discussion with Irazú Gómez Vargas, Coordinator for Sin Fronteras, Mexico City, Mexico

With: Irazú Gómez Vargas Berkley Center Profile

July 1, 2016

Background: As part of the Education and Social Justice Fellowship, in July 2016 undergraduate student Carolyn Vilter interviewed Irazú Gómez Vargas, a coordinator for Sin Fronteras in Mexico City, Mexico. In this interview, Vargas discusses the services Sin Fronteras provides to asylum applicants and highlights the importance of fully understanding the realities of migrants in Mexico.
What is your name?

Irazú Gómez Vargas. I’m the coordinator of incidencia y vinculación [incidences and linkages] here at Sin Fronteras. This year, Sin Fronteras will complete 20 years of work in defense of the human rights of migrant individuals, particularly applicants for asylum. As you know, international protection covers three individual profiles—here in Mexico now, four: individuals soliciting asylum; refugees; stateless individuals, without recognition of nationality from any state; and fourth, individuals with complementary protection. Mexico, via a law passed in 2011, recognizes refugees but also allows for something called “complementary protection” if an individual is not recognized as a refugee. This affords fewer rights, but it does allow the person to stay in Mexico with some of the characteristics of refugee status. We attend to individuals of all four of these profiles. Initially, we only worked with refugees.

The services we provide fall into a few categories: first, the protection of the rights of migrants, which has to do with ensuring that migrants have access to their human rights regardless of their migratory status. Additionally, we provide psycho-social and legal attention, a triad of services that entails not only aiding the migrant in obtaining documentation but also providing psychosocial and psycho-emotional services. Everything involved in leaving your country due to persecution, or due to the economic conditions, or due to violence, is likely to create serious psychosocial problems. We provide this psychological attention for more or less three months after the individual receives documentation, so that they can find work, enroll in school, be directed to housing or health services—everything that’s involved in the first stages of resettlement in a new country.

Finally, the third category is everything involved in vinculación y incidencia, which involves a great deal of work with government: first, to promote laws that afford migrants and their rights more recognition by the government. Our organization, together with others, has been very influential in legislative processes: migration law, refugee law, recently laws related to children which also invoke migrant children’s rights, and other laws that give migrants greater rights and access. All of this requires a great deal of work very closely with other civil society organizations to promote these dialogues with the government. As of about five years ago, we’ve also begun to work with the Supreme Court to create an action protocol regarding crimes against migrant individuals.

Describe the work done in incidencia. How do you achieve changes, form relationships, and otherwise do the work of incidencia?

I think first of all, an important step is the diagnostic part. Diagnostics, reports, observation of the issue in the field allows us to see what is missing in the first place: why people don’t have access to their rights; what is missing for them to be able to have the access they need. Sin Fronteras has historically had a strong background in analyzing realities in this way, and in not reacting immediately. There are different ways of addressing realities, and our intention is to provide assistance, yes, but also to generate platforms and normative frameworks and precedents that permit the possibility of self-sufficiency in the future. So Sin Fronteras conducts a good analysis of realities, which is to say, what has happened and what the most pressing issues are. This allows us to see what frameworks are missing or what frameworks aren’t working correctly.

From this analysis follows the creation of proposals: how it is that migrants should be able to access their rights. And we do this also by generating synergy with other organizations that are working on the same issues and on the same level of intervention. Every level of intervention from every organization is necessary, but there are some organizations that work in terms of more immediate responses. For example, [there are] shelters, which fill a very latent and sensitive need, and others that work on a more macro, long-range scale—for example, developing new normative frameworks and creating public policy. With this in mind, we form relationships with other actors to come to an agreement as to what initiatives we intend to promote.

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