Eunice Rendon began her career in biomedicine, receiving a PhD from the Institute of Paris.
After returning home to Mexico and seeing firsthand the impacts of poverty and gang activity, she decided to dedicate all her efforts to violence prevention. In Juarez, she saw firsthand how violence impacts people across Central America, forcing them to flee their homes and to seek safety at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Now, Eunice is the Executive Director of Agenda Migrante and an expert in migration and violence prevention. She works with groups on both sides of the border to ensure families and children can live and grow safely.
She is the recipient of Refugees International’s 2021 Exceptional Service Award for her commitment to addressing the needs of people seeking safety from violence. Refugees International spoke to her about her personal experience and work.
What inspired your change in career from biomedicine to working on migration and violence prevention?
Key people in different moments of my life inspired and taught me about the importance on issues of migration and violence prevention, for and with the people.
I worked for the Ministry of Health when Villas de Salvarcar massacre occurred in Ciudad Juarez, in which 16 young people were killed by the Linea criminal group. As a result, the federal government started the program Todos Somos Juárez to rejuvenate the city, and I was responsible for the implementation of youth policies. I met many young people involved in gangs. We visited and worked for a couple of years in the neighborhoods that were considered the most dangerous in the city, and I realized that the real enemy was the risk factors, the enormous difficulties, and lack of comprehensive, grassroots security policies. After this experience I decided to continue and specialize in social violence prevention and advocate for vulnerable populations.
As general director, and later, in charge of the undersecretary for violence prevention and citizen participation in the Ministry of the Interior, I had the opportunity to work in difficult places in terms of violence. In those places, I meet a lot of inspiring people and communities, among them, Mexican migrants in the United States and their families in Mexico. We worked on violence prevention strategies with them and with the support of some key allies such as the World Box Council, Clubes de Migrantes, USAID, and FIFA, among others.
When Trump’s victory became a reality, I decided to continue working with them through the Agenda Migrante initiative, a coalition of more than 50 organizations and allies working in different places on behalf migrants’ rights. I am still working with different migrants, especially with asylum seekers at the Mexican border, with migrant and displaced women and children, incarcerated people, and vulnerable populations in Ciudad Juárez, Tepito, and different areas of Estado de Mexico, Tlaxcala and Oaxaca.
What are the most significant needs of people arriving in Mexico in search of safety?
People who migrate are fleeing violence, poverty, natural disasters, climate change, and food insecurity. They need and deserve support and protection.
Asylum seekers and migrants need shelter, food, healthcare, clothing, education, housing, hygiene items, and employment opportunities, which will allow them to become self-sufficient. Mental health services are also needed, especially for women and children that are traveling or in shelters.
The Biden administration inherited inhumane policies against migrants started by former U.S. president Trump. With policies such as Remain in Mexico and Title 42, implemented by the United States government with the support of Mexican authorities, we have seen violations of migrant’s human rights. Under Remain in Mexico, more than 70,000 migrants—including families with children—had to wait in during their asylum processes without any help, in shelters without basic public health measures, such as social distancing, proper hygiene, or the possibility of self-isolation. When the United States started expelling migrants under Title 42, they left them in Mexican territory, without notice and during the night. Some expelled Central American women provided testimonials about being captured by criminals, raped, and abused.
How does your work with Agenda Migrante help address those needs?
Agenda Migrante is a coalition of organizations doing advocacy on behalf people who have fled their homes.
We are a non-profit community advocacy and outreach organization. Our main purpose is to give voice to migrants and to engage different key actors in the conversation on migration. We have had more than 50 meetings and forums in different parts of the United States and Mexico focused on different facets of migration, such as, Dreamers, undocumented migrants and refugees, binational families, and children.
We address migrants’ needs with stakeholders, local governments, Congress, media, the academy, and institutions on both sides of the border. Through our lawyers network and allies, we identify special cases and situations in which we can help, giving legal advice and guidance to vulnerable migrants.
We also help deported Mexicans, Central American families returned under Remain in Mexico and Title 42, and people in transit, and we help them problem solve.
What have you learned from the individuals you’ve met who are forced to leave their homes in search of safety?
They are resilient people, looking for a better future for themselves and their children. They left very bad conditions in their home countries, and unfortunately, violence has become the most common push factor. We also learned that most of them have suffered different problems, including economic and security issues. I also learned what hard workers they are.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
Building relationships of trust through helping vulnerable people is very satisfying. I also enjoy supporting vulnerable people, working and learning from them is always interesting and constructive. It is fantastic to see people obtaining their refugee status, a job opportunity, or access to different services with the guidance we give to them. It is also fantastic to see successful cases of migrants that are settled and moving forward with their lives.
What do you hope for the future, through the work of Agenda Migrante?
I hope to mobilize networks in Mexico, the United States, and Central American countries that will increase public awareness about populations on the move, strengthen actions on both sides of the border, and focus on finding solutions for children and families.
What should the international community do to support the needs of migrants in Mexico?
Political statements and humanitarian commitments need to translate into real and sustainable actions and policies, not just be words and strategies on paper. We need to underline and take advantage of, through effective and tailor-made policies, the positive benefits that migration brings to our communities.