These migrants bound for the US border found their dream opportunity in Mexico

When Dales Louissaint left Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 2016 amid growing lawlessness and economic crisis, his sights were set on the United States. For him, the American dream meant learning a new language, going to college, and becoming a lawyer. 

Today, he’s safely living out his dream, envisioning even bigger life plans – earning a master’s degree, buying a home, starting a family – and confident they could become a reality. 

But instead of in the U.S., he’s making it happen in Mexico. 

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For many migrants, the United States represents the promised land. But along the way, some have found home – and success – in Mexico.

On a recent rainy morning, Mr. Louissaint weaves his way through a maze of plastic folding tables and chairs on the basketball court outside a Mexican asylum office in Tijuana. As a translator for the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), he’s helping migrants – mostly Haitians, with some Cubans, Hondurans, and Syrians – fleeing violence, impunity, and persecution.

He’s constantly flagged down by applicants looking to white-out mistakes on their paperwork (he carries a special pen in his pocket for the purpose) and sits alongside those trying to articulate why they had to leave home. 

Mr. Louissaint is no-nonsense in his work, nodding calmly as applicants lob questions at him. Most, he suspects, have their eyes trained on the U.S. as he once did, before he realized he’d likely never attain legal status to study and work in a job like this. “Many end up staying here. And for some, it can work,” he says. “I never want to live in a country other than Mexico.”

Alfredo Sosa/Staff

Mr. Louissaint assists people seeking asylum in Mexico. He works with the United Nations refugee agency.

To be sure, Mexico faces undeniable challenges. There have been more than 30,000 murders per year for five years straight – a far higher rate than in the U.S. – and gangs hold unchecked control over vast swaths of the country. An estimated 386,000 Mexicans are displaced within the country due to violence. Roughly 60% of laborers work in the informal sector, unable to earn a stable wage. Remaining in Mexico isn’t realistic for all migrants and refugees – or even Mexicans – and the ability to settle here can depend on a person’s place of origin, the threats they’re fleeing, and where in Mexico they land.

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