Tapachula, 12 December 2022 – Ariela Baquiax is a traditional midwife originally from El Tumbador, San Marcos, in western Guatemala. For the past 22 years, she has lived in the coffee-growing region of Soconusco, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas where she works mainly as a coffee bean picker.
As a midwife, Ariela does far more than deliver babies. She also ensures the children of migrant and cross-border workers are properly registered in Mexico.
Ariela travels long distances to deliver babies between several coffee farms in the region which are hundreds of kilometres away. Women working on these farms do not have the resources to travel to Tapachula city to access hospital care.
She explains that when she delivers a baby, she also ensures that the mothers know that their children have rights in Mexico. "I give a 'delivery paper' to the women I attend and advice about their right to have their children properly recognized here in Mexico,” she said. “I tell them their children have the right to study here and receive health care."
Ariela hopes that sharing important information on the registration of babies born to migrant workers in Mexico will combat both fear and a lack of knowledge about procedures. In the communities she serves, there are children who are older than 12 who do not have birth certificates issued by the Mexican Civil Registry.
In some cases, Guatemalan cross-border families return to their country of origin to register their children for fear of being detained by Mexican authorities for having passed through without documentation and thereby, potentially being separated from their children.
"People are afraid to ask about registering their children because they do not have a work permit here. So, they prefer to go to Guatemala to register them, even though they were born in this country and they have the right to citizenship," Ariela explained.
Ariela and other midwives like her have built such a strong bond of trust with their communities that staff from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) were able to approach parents in efforts to increase awareness of birth registration. In recent months, IOM staff have made several visits to these communities and successfully identified several families with children born in Mexico to foreign parents, or families without birth certificates for their children.
This relationship between midwives and the communities they serve is both a tradition and a bond that continues to be respected in communities where medical care for women is precarious or inaccessible.
"IOM approached midwives in this community, and they gave us information about the families and their stories,” explained Andrea Insunza, Protection Assistant at IOM Mexico. “Now, with the help of these midwives, we have ensured that younger children and teenagers have a registry and a birth certificate.”
IOM also collaborated with the Chiapas state government through the Civil Registry, the Tapachula authorities, the Guatemalan consulate, and the staff of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) to carry out a "Registration Day for Mexican Children" in late August of this year in the municipality of Ignacio Zaragoza. As a result, officials issued 89 birth certificates for the children of border-working mothers and fathers who work on the coffee farms in the Soconusco region.
Midwives like Ariela will continue to spread the word to other mothers that the migratory status of either parent is not an impediment for the free registration and processing of a birth certificate of their children.
"Now that I am going to register my children, I feel delighted because I will be able to go with them for a walk, and I will no longer be afraid of being detained because they don't have papers. I will also be able to go to Guatemala to see my family because I have been here for 20 years and I can't go because I was afraid my children would be taken away from me at the border," said Orfidea Crisóstomo, one of the beneficiaries of this collaborative approach.
This story was written by Cesia Chavarría, Communications Assistant at IOM Mexico.
International Migrants Day (18 December) is the day designated by the United Nations to raise awareness about the challenges and opportunities presented by global migration in all its forms, to advocate for the rights of migrants to be respected, and encourage the international community to work together to ensure migration is managed in a manner that is safe, orderly and dignified.