Guatemalan asylum seekers continue their activism from exile in Juarez

Immigration

Maya Ixil tribe members become interpreters for countrymen who don't speak Spanish, raise funds for witnesses of genocide

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Kaxh Mura’l and La’s La B’oxh fled Guatemala for fear of their lives more than a year ago.

But before the two Maya Ixil environmental activists could place an asylum claim at the U.S. border, they were robbed by police in Mexico and spent a month locked up by smugglers in a house in Juarez.

When their El Paso lawyer Carlos Spector finally got them across the border to submit a claim based on death threats and persecution by Guatemalan army veterans and sympathizers, the defenders of “Mother Earth” found themselves placed in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program.

They were sent to wait out resolution of their cases in Mexico and to this day they’re still waiting. Unfazed, the Maya Ixils have done what they do best: go on with their activism.

In this 2017 file photo, an Ixil Maya carries the remains of a Guatemala civil war victim, exhumed from the town of Santa Avelina. (Associated Press)

“Some countrymen come (to Juarez) not even speaking Spanish. We have interpreted their needs. We have found ways to help and feel happy to help them,” said Mura’l, 32, whose passion for halting the takeover of indigenous lands and human rights abuses in rural Guatemala got him death threats.

In a Tuesday teleconference sponsored by El Paso’s Hope Border Institute, Mura’l La B’oxh spoke about their efforts to provide for human rights defenders left behind in Guatemala.

La B’ohx witnessed a massacre in his village when he was a child and dedicated most of his adult life to bring to justice the army officers responsible for the killings.

Many including former president Efrain Ríos have been convicted of war crimes, but their sympathizers never forgot who said what about their leaders. La B’ohx escaped Guatemala but many other witnesses stayed behind.

“We are trying to create a fund for those who testified against the genocide,” he said. “They are mostly older adults who can no longer work and sometimes need medication. We want to create (a page) to support those in remote communities.”

HBI sponsored the teleconference as part of World Day of Migrant and Refugees. To learn more about the Mayan activists’ efforts to raise funds for their forced stay in Juarez due to the MPP program and to help others, click here.

Mura’l and La B’oxh say they’ve learned to use social media to stay in touch with those they’re trying to help in Guatemala and to tell potential migrants the difficulties they’re likely to face on a dangerous trip through Mexico.

“It is hard and sad to see what happens during the trip, during the migration. We know because we have lived it,” Mura’l said. “When an Indian is in a group and cannot express his needs how will people know if he needs water or food or medicines? Communication is difficult, and so is racism. Everyone has his views, his way of thinking and very often they cannot put that aside, so it affects the indigenous people who emigrate. We have seen it. We have lived it.”

La B’oxh said if people in countries that receive migrants don’t want to see them there, they have to address the root causes of migration.

“If (you) don’t understand the reality of migrants, that person can see you with mistrust. Sometimes, we state the truth, and people don’t like it. They want to hear good things, but the other person may not agree with him. We have a lot of work to do in that regard,” Mura’l said.

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