By Manuel Ayala
Tijuana, Mexico, Sep 27 (EFE) – The number of new asylum seekers arriving in this northwestern Mexican border city has increased by nearly 300 percent in recent months, leading to a shortage of beds at shelters and causing the homeless population there to swell.
A major cause of the influx has been a rise in internal migration, with Mexicans displaced by political conflicts and organized crime-related violence heading to that urban center across the United States-Mexico frontier from San Diego, California, Enrique Lucero, the Tijuana municipal government’s migrant affairs director, told Efe on Tuesday.
He added that another factor is the steady arrival of Haitian migrants, who are drawn to Tijuana because “there’s a big established Haitian community here and that’s gives them confidence.”
Most of these arrivals are seeking asylum under certain exceptions to Title 42, a policy put in place at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic that authorizes US border officials to promptly deport migrants over coronavirus concerns.
Those exceptions have led to a 297 percent rise in the number of newly arrived migrants in Tijuana between June and September.
Lucero said the number of consultations his office has provided to asylum-seeking migrants has risen exponentially in recent months. From a relatively low 17 in June and then 69 in July, that number soared to 206 in August and to 623 thus far in September.
One of these migrants, a woman who spoke to Efe using the pseudonym “Maria,” said she fled her native state of Michoacan due to threats from organized crime and decided to head to Tijuana with her two children to apply for asylum in the US.
She said she knows other people from her community who were granted refugee status thanks to the support of attorneys and activists and are now living in that neighboring country.
A young Haitian couple, for their part, told Efe they left their impoverished Caribbean country “because there’s a lot of chaos there” stemming from the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.
“A lot of conflict in the streets. You can’t live in the country, so we came here, where we already know some people. But we have nowhere to sleep,” one of the two individuals said anonymously.
These latest developments in Tijuana are part of a broader migration phenomenon that has seen more than 1.82 million people detained by the US Customs and Border Patrol thus far in fiscal year 2022, which began last October and runs through the end of September.
Migrant flows have risen sharply since the January 2021 inauguration of President Joe Biden, a Democrat who supports a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented migrants currently in the US.
Biden’s administration also has fought a successful court battle to end a policy put in place by his predecessor that forced asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while awaiting their immigration hearings.
There are other factors, however, driving northward immigration, including a worsening of economic conditions in countries like Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras since the start of the pandemic and the expected end of Title 42.
Tijuana’s Movimiento Juventud 2000 shelter, located just a kilometer from the San Ysidro border crossing, has recently run out of beds for migrants, dozens of whom are now being forced to sleep outside its walls.
Its director, Jose Maria Garcia Lara, told reporters that Mexican authorities have paid insufficient attention to the migrant community, adding that the shelter is only receiving support from the Tijuana Sin Hambre organization, which offers free meals in the afternoons.
The activist said his operating expenses have soared and questioned why President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s administration is not allocating funds to attend to those who are fleeing “serious conflict” and violence in states like Michoacan and Guerrero and heading to Tijuana and other border cities. EFE