“I feel like the whole world is crying out, going crazy, knowing that we are not together,” says Diosmany. “How is it that we can be together for ten years, committed to each other for ten years, and then the U.S., a third party can come in and tear us apart like that?” Diosmany, still in shock, tells the story of how he and his wife, Lisday were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border last month while attempting to seek asylum near Yuma.
Both from Cuba, Diosmany and Lidsay fled political persecution in their home country in 2019. “I fear my liberty, my life, that they’ll follow through with the threats. I can’t return,” says Diosmany. Upon first arriving in southern Mexico in 2019, Disomany was attacked and beaten by members of organized crime and taken to the hospital where X-rays showed broken bones in his foot. He filed a report with the police about what happened to him, but then began receiving threatening phone calls. Because of the ongoing danger, Diosmany and Lidsay fled to northern Mexico, arriving at the border in December of 2019 to seek asylum in the United States.
They first had to wait several weeks on the asylum metering list in Nogales until their claim was finally processed in February of 2020. Diosmany and Lidsay were initially processed and recognized as asylum seekers by Border Patrol agents and were given a court date to continue their asylum process. However, instead of being able to seek asylum from within the U.S., they were returned to Nogales under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), the very country they feared. After being returned to Nogales, the threatening phone calls continued. They attempted to tell the police and seek protection, they were told they had to pay a bribe for protection. “Who is looking out for migrants? Not the police, not the government. We have to pay for protection,” he says.
Diosmany and Lidsay felt completely stuck, unable to live with tranquility in Mexico and knowing that returning to Cuba was not an option “I’m fleeing two layers of persecution, first in Cuba and the second here in Mexico,” says Diosmany. “But at this point Cuba has left my mind…I focus on what’s happening now, what I feel now. Mexico is unsafe and I have been able to see just how unsafe it is–I’ve been extorted, mistreated, I’ve had to go to the doctor, I’ve been beaten by the gangs…Everyday that I am here, my risk increases.”
While they always felt unsafe in Nogales, Diosmany and Lidsay truly felt the presence of danger last month. While walking through Nogales on a Sunday afternoon, they were both stopped and questioned by several men armed and in an unmarked vehicle. They questioned Diosmany and Lidsay, but because the answers they provided didn’t seem to appease the group of violent men, they took photos of them. “I don’t know where they sent the photos or to who,” says Diosmany. “I don’t want to find out…I had already gotten calls that they [knew] where I was, that I was at the border.” Fearing that the threats may ensue, Diosmany and Lidsay decided to attempt to seek asylum again in the U.S. and explain that they were in danger in Mexico and could not remain there under MPP. After they were both detained in Yuma for three days, they released Lidsay to be with her sister in Texas but they told Diosmany, “you have MPP. You’re going back to Mexico.” His devastation was two-fold: he was being sent back to danger and without his wife. “I am unsafe here. I’m afraid I’ll lose–lose my wife, my life, my family, because Lidsay is my family.”
As the first migrants who had been waiting in Mexico under MPP are processed at Texas and California ports of entry under Phase 1 of the Biden Administration’s plan to roll back dehumanizing Trump-era policies, migrants with MPP who were returned to Nogales still have not received any indication of when and how they will be processed and allowed to await their asylum hearings in the U.S. Diosmany continues to endure uncertainty and hardship in Nogales, he is now just doing it alone. “I think God that Lidsay is with her sister, that she is safe,” he says. “I have been in Mexico nearly two years and I want to leave because it has taken its toll, physically and psychologically.”