Haitian migrants’ fighting to survive, find work in Ciudad Juarez

By Guadalupe Peñuelas

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Jan 17 (EFE).- A group of Haitian migrants who arrived months ago in the northern Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez are scrambling to find work although most of them don’t speak Spanish or have their papers in order, even as they continue to pursue their dream crossing the border into the United States to flee the ongoing crisis in their homeland and get a new start.

In the northern part of this city in Chihuahua state, one of Mexico’s most industrial and most dangerous areas along the US border, a church has become a shelter welcoming Haitian migrants, who have found there a place where they can find refuge.

“This place would be an evangelical church but we sought to provide support for the migrants. For almost three years, we’ve welcomed foreigners coming from different countries, mainly from Central and South America. And now it’s the Haitians,” the director and manager of the church facility, Francisco Espino, told EFE on Monday.

The humble site – with its decrepit furniture, unpainted walls and outfitted with gradeschool desks and chairs – houses 22 Haitian adults and six children.

Among their main needs are beds, since some of them are sleeping on mattresses or even just on blankets on the floor.

But although it’s not well-appointed, the place enables the migrants to shelter against the winter cold in this border city, where at night the temperature can fall below zero.

The dire Haitian economic and social crisis, which was triggered more than a decade ago by a devastating earthquake, for years now has motivated hundreds of thousands of the poverty-stricken country’s citizens to emigrate.

After long journeys, many of them have wound up in Mexico, where they often seek to regularize their immigration status with Mexican authorities as they wait for a chance to cross the border into the US.

According to Espino, the main problems facing this group of foreigners in getting properly settled here – even if only temporarily – is that they don’t have their papers in order with Mexican authorities that would allow them to find legal work and they don’t speak Spanish.

“Due to the communication problem they have, only six men and one woman among these Haitians have managed to find work. This creates a conflict for them. They come with nothing, just a backpack, and we’re trying to support them to the extent possible because they have dreams just like us,” the activist said.

Sergo Gelin, one of the Haitians staying at the church, told EFE in broken and rudimentary Spanish about his situation: “I’ve been in Juarez for a month and I’m looking for work. It’s very difficult for me, being a foreigner. I’m a freight elevator operator. I’m a foreman and I’ve come here to live. I’ll stay here if I can find work.”

He said that each day he goes out to look for work in this city known for its “maquilas” (product assembly workshops) and strong industrial base, but because he doesn’t have Mexican documents it’s next to impossible to find anything.

“We’re foreigners and so they don’t hire us. I’m not registered and there’s no (government) aid,” said the 40-something man, who sadly explained that “sometimes you eat and sometimes you don’t.”

Another case is that of Falone Saint Charles, a woman who came to Ciudad Juarez with her 1-year-old son. “I wanted to leave my son in a nursery school to go to work and they told me that I have to have social security. (So), I don’t have any place to leave my boy,” she told EFE.

While taking care of her child, she said that she wants to stay in Ciudad Juarez to live, but she needs work to be able to have a better life.

“The money here isn’t enough. Everything’s expensive,” she said.

The daily reality for this group of Haitians in Ciudad Juarez is yet another reflection of the immigration crisis.

The region is experiencing a record flow of migrants toward the US, and the northern neighbor’s Customs and Border Protection detected more than 1.7 million undocumented migrants along its border with Mexico during Fiscal 2021, which ended on Sept. 30, 2021.

Mexico, meanwhile, intercepted more than 252,000 undocumented migrants between January and November last year and deported more than 100,000 during the same period, according to the Immigration Policy Unit within the Interior Secretariat.

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