Internally displaced Mexicans see Tijuana as stepping stone to asylum in US

Tijuana, Mexico, May 10 (EFE).- Thousands of Mexicans driven from their homes by organized crime-related violence have made their way to this northwestern border city, from where they hope to enter the United States and receive asylum and humanitarian aid.

Ukrainian and Haitian refugee crises have overshadowed the plight of internally displaced Mexicans, activists told Efe on Tuesday.

They warned of a very serious problem in western states like Michoacan, which has been racked by soaring violence attributed to drug cartels.

“There are many nuclear families in which mothers, fathers are coming, and up to four children with them,” Jose Maria Garcia Lara, director of the Movimiento Juventud 2000 shelter, told Efe. “This situation is continuing because the violence hasn’t ended in some regions and because they are still harboring hope of being able to cross.”

The number of people currently internally displaced by violence in Mexico now stands at more than 356,000, according to the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights, a secular and autonomous civil organization.

Authorities in Michoacan say nearly 4,500 displaced people have arrived in Tijuana from that state alone over the past year and a half, but local shelters that harbor those migrants told Efe their figures put the number of arrivals from that state at 15,000 over the same period.

Since 2021, Tijuana has received “a large community of displaced people due to extreme violence generated by organized crime,” Garcia Lara said.

That assessment, however, contrasts with statements by Michoacan Gov. Alfredo Ramirez Bedolla, who said last month during a visit to Tijuana that “the vast majority of migrants have left due to gender violence or violence against women.”

The internally displaced individuals Efe spoke to at Tijuana shelters said they left their homes because the drug cartels threatened them, killed or kidnapped one of their family members or charged them right-to-work fees.

Maria Rodriguez, a displaced woman, said she and her family have no plans to return home because “there’s a war there” and most of the mothers have adolescent sons who have been threatened by the crime gangs for not joining their ranks.

Another of the mothers, who spoke to Efe on condition of anonymity, said her family’s property was seized.

“There’s a lot of kidnapping, a lot of disappearances. There are a lot of wars because the (crime groups) fight over plazas (drug-smuggling corridors), and we don’t want to go back because most of us who are here (in Tijuana) are facing death threats,” she added.

Enrique Lucero Vazquez, head of Tijuana’s migrant-outreach office, told Efe that 50 percent of the migrants now housed in that city’s shelters are displaced Mexicans, the vast majority of them from Michoacan.

“We’ve seen that the flow continues. The Michoacan government is now taking action, and an agreement has been reached to find solutions – first to prevent the exodus from continuing and, for those who are here, to see how to support them in their situation because some are going to want to cross (into the United States),” he said.



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