The following comes from an October 12 Angelus article by JD Long-Garcia:
TIJUANA, Mexico — Behind a migrant center just south of the U.S.-Mexico border, hundreds of Haitian migrants wait their turn to shower. Inside, volunteers schlep eggs, rice, beans and assorted vegetables to the kitchen.
Valentino Lopez Guerrero keeps a sharp eye on the back door, a box in his arms. Organizers at the Salesian center, El Desayunador Salesiano Padre Chava, have learned that they can only have about 20 people in the large hall, waiting for one of the five showers. It’s chaos otherwise. Guerrero shoots another glance at the back door.
In the line of 20, women wait with their children, standing before a giant depiction of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Not a single child is older than 5. A young boy kicks a cheap, pink, bouncy ball, the size of a grapefruit, past his mother. He bounds after it, past a life-size wooden carving of the resurrected Christ.
After their showers, two Haitian women stroll to the back door, chatting in Creole. The door cracks and the banter of the hundreds waiting outside floods the hall. Guerrero slams his box onto a table and runs over.
“No, no, no, no!” he shouts. Six more had already made their way in, with 10 at their heels. He spreads his arms wide. “No, it’s not your turn! Not your turn!” They argue back and forth, but to no end. They don’t speak the same language.
Guerrero manages to stop the flow and shuts the door. He takes a deep breath. He picks his box back up.
“They’re too many to deal with,” he says. “It’s become dangerous. We’re tired. It’s a titanic battle. Breakfast, lunch, dinner…”
The migrant centers in Tijuana have been inundated with Haitian immigrants for the last four months. They began arriving May 26, mostly from Brazil. There, thousands had worked construction to build structures for the World Cup and the Olympics. But there’s no more work there.
The Haitian migrants came to the border expecting to enter the United States by means of humanitarian parole, which grants temporary legal entry for certain individuals who face emergencies in their homeland.
On Sept. 22, the Obama administration announced it would no longer grant Haitian humanitarian parole, a policy that had been in place since the 2010 earthquake rocked the Caribbean nation. The administration announced it would resume deportations of Haitian immigrants who arrived at ports of entry without a legal path to enter.
Margarita Andonaegui, who runs the Salesian center just south of the port of entry, explains that they normally house 88. These days, the center has more than 300.
“They arrive and they don’t leave,” she explains of the migrants’ long, and now perhaps indefinite, wait. Of the 300, 150 are women and 50 are children. Many of the women are pregnant.
“We don’t know if they will be deported,” Andonaegui says from behind a stack of government-issued documents given to the Haitian migrants. The documents serve as the migrants’ identification, and the Mexican government has asked the Salesian center to be responsible for them.
“They are bathing, they’re all eating,” Andonaegui says, “it’s an expense that we cannot maintain.”
“We all thought this was temporary,” says Scalabrini Father Patrick Murphy, director of the Casa del Migrante in Tijuana. He thought it would be over in two or three weeks when the migrants began arriving in May. “And now we think there’s no end in sight.”
Over that time, Father Murphy has seen immigrants from 25 different countries, including some from Syria, Haiti and countries in Africa. The number sleeping at the shelter has doubled. About half are Mexican nationals deported from the United States and half are Haitians that began the journey in Brazil.
Many Central Americans traveling through Mexico are robbed and sequestered, but Haitians who arrive at Casa del Migrante tell a different story. Once they arrive at Tapachula on the southern Mexican border, things are relatively easy on the way to Tijuana, a city whose 1.3 million residents rival San Diego in population.
That ease could be due in part to a company that has begun a new bus route border-to-border, from Tapachula to Tijuana, three times a week. Without fail, the bus is full of Haitian migrants. They arrive in groups of 10-12, and within each group, at least one Haitian person speaks Spanish.
“We’ve seen patterns. From all indications, someone is organizing this,” Father Murphy says of the Haitians’ journey from Brazil. “Maybe some genius saw the opportunity when [the economy] went south in Brazil. I don’t know. Who is it? I’m not privy to that information.”
The Haitians who are arriving are young. The average age at the Casa del Migrante is 32, and half of the men have their wives with them in Tijuana. Some have begun to find jobs in the border town.
The recently arrived are well dressed and don new shoes. The clothes won’t hold up long sleeping on the streets, though. Migrants sit in groups on blankets, often lining the sidewalks of residential streets. Space has run out at the shelters.
On the road to Casa del Migrante, many of the Haitian migrants have smartphones, their white ear buds in place, watching videos. One digs an elbow into a friend’s side, laughing, then shoving the iPhone over to show what he’s just seen on social media.
Inside Casa del Migrante, a group of four migrants chat in Creole. They’re waiting for dinner, which will be served within the hour. Salad, pork and beans on plastic plates, bread in a basket and iced tea.
One member of the group speaks Spanish with a distinct Dominican accent. He used to work in the Dominican Republic, he explains, but won’t share his name. They’ve seen their friends misquoted, he says.
Yes, he came from Brazil. He came with the others but he says they met on the way. It took him two months to get here. “I didn’t think I’d be stuck here for a month,” he says. It was a difficult journey. They were pushed around and robbed along the way.
“The United States is a country that can help everyone,” he says, confessing that he’s worried he won’t get in after the Obama administration’s announcement. “The United States is such a rich country. We don’t understand.”
How could such a long, costly journey wind up in nothing? They see their friends cross and not return. They believe this means their friends have been accepted into the United States.
“They’re living on false hope,” Father Murphy says. “It’s still not clicking for them.”