In Tijuana, desperate migrants wait not for Godot but for governments

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“The people are being sent back. Then people are coming up,” he said. “They keep sending more and more people under Title 42, and that means the pressure is on here in Mexico. We’re completely overwhelmed,” said Murphy, director of Casa del Migrante Tijuana, a non-profit group that assists migrants.

Title 42 is a government policy instituted by the Trump administration last spring and continued by the Biden administration. It allows U.S. authorities to immediately expel on the grounds of public health migrants that cross the border. Esmeralda Siu Márquez, executive coordinator of Coalition for Defense of the Immigrant (Coalición Pro Defensa del Migrante), said the five shelters they operate in Tijuana are at capacity and called for direct help to shelters for operating expenses.

“A lot of people are just hanging around, waiting until something changes,” Murphy explained. “It is quite the challenge since, despite the pandemic, the mobility of people continues to increase and without the necessary protection measures to prevent the virus, and many of them are overcrowded,” said Márquez, speaking about the camp Murphy mentioned and some of its shelters.

The situation on the ground in Tijuana, as he describes it, includes about 2,000 people camping on a cement pavilion outside of a Mexican immigration facility waiting for asylum to open. The city’s more than 30 migrant shelters are full, he said, and there are still many people not in any sort of shelter at all. In a conversation with Crux, Murphy said 200-500 people are currently being sent back daily under the policy.

“The cartels charge a tax on each business in certain areas, and people say, ‘We were surviving, but they’re asking for 50 percent of our intake’,” Father Murphy told Crux. “Or, they say that, ‘We’re going to take your teenage daughter, or your teenage son needs to enter with us.’” Widespread violence, family violence, natural disasters, extreme poverty, fear of losing their lives, persecution, and lack of employment are some of the reasons migrants have told Márquez they fled north in the first place. More specifically, Murphy mentioned the danger of the cartels.

When people arrive at Casa del Migrante Tijuana, Murphy says they have a work office where they encourage people to get a job — he says there are plenty in Tijuana, in industries such as construction — and an apartment, and then wait for the asylum process to open. However, he notes that some people are desperate and decide to try and cross anyway. Murphy also said nothing is being done to control smugglers’ charging exorbitant rates, crossing people into the U.S., and still making money. The same is true for human trafficking, which he called a “big concern.” “So, people make decisions overnight, and they just run north. Uninformed, they think it’s going to be easy to assume asylum,” he continued. “Through this whole education process, they have to realize that asylum is not that easy.”

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