Social Issues

Free Shops cater to migrants stranded in Mexican border city

By Guadalupe Peñuelas

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Oct 6 (EFE).- Activists in this metropolis on Mexico’s border with the United States have set up Free Shops where the thousands of migrants stuck here awaiting a chance to head north in pursuit of the “American Dream” can help themselves to recycled clothing.

“This support is great because there are some of us who don’t have clothes and this way we can recover a little,” Marcelina Hernandez told Efe at one of the 28 Free Shops in Ciudad Juarez.

She, her husband and their two sons have spent the last month after making the trip from the state of Guerrero, on Mexico’s southern Pacific coast.

Another beneficiary is Yeimi Olivas, also from Guerrero.

“Sometimes we don’t have the money to buy clothes and I have four children. I’m looking for shorts, shirts and shoes,” she says as her 5-year-old runs around the shop.

The family, who fled poverty and violence in Guerrero, don’t know how long they will be in Juarez waiting for officials in the US to rule on their application for asylum, she told Efe.

Mexican immigration authorities detected 147,000 undocumented foreigners – mostly Central Americans – in the first eight months of 2021, a tripling compared with the same period last year. While in July alone, the Border Patrol detained a record 212,000 people trying to enter the US without authorization.

After the long journey across Mexico, many migrants are short on money by the time they reach the northern border, especially those of them who paid “coyotes” (people-traffickers) to facilitate their journey.

Between 30 and 40 migrants a day, on average, visit the Free Shops.

“If I were a migrant this space would be gratifying,” project founder Julio Cesar Morales told Efe, pointing out that recycling clothes instead of discarding them is environmentally friendly.

“The migrants’ cases are difficult. They arrive without shoes, cold, and we help them within our possibilities. Everybody is thankful and incredulous because being able to clothe their kids becomes a dream for them,” Free Shops volunteer Guadalupe Celis said.

Celis said that most of the migrants she sees are from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador or from impoverished areas of southern Mexico.

Morales said he got the idea during a trip to Germany, whose capital, Berlin, has a similar network of shops serving the homeless and other needy people.

At a Free Shop occupying what used to be a bar in downtown Juarez, donated clothing is sorted into different sections for men, women and children.

A person can walk in needing everything and walk out dressed from head to toe.

“When you see their faces and their happiness as they pick up clothes and shoes you realize that brands don’t matter here,” Celis said. EFE gp/dr

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