Social Issues

Work under way on Mexico’s largest center for migrants

By Manuel Ayala

Tijuana, Mexico, Oct 21 (EFE).- What will be Mexico’s largest immigration complex is under construction in this border metropolis amid a humanitarian crisis fueled by the deportation of Venezuelan asylum-seekers from the United States and the unceasing north-bound flow of Haitians in pursuit of the “American Dream.”

The future “City of God” is being built on land belonging to Ambassadors of Jesus Church, whose pastor, Gustavo Banda Aceves, has since 2016 been offering shelter to Haitians who find themselves marooned in Tijuana, within sight of California.

Once complete, he tells EFE, the complex will have accommodation for up to 2,700 migrants, a kitchen and dining area with room for 1,500 people, a clinic, a playing field and other sporting facilities and a pair of school buildings.

Mexico’s federal education department have already approved the opening of a school for the more than 670 children in the space known as “Little Haiti,” Banda says.

When the first Haitians began turning up in Tijuana, they slept rough on the streets, a situation that prompted Banda to transform his church into a shelter before going on to sponsor construction of the buildings making up Little Haiti.

“We give thanks to God and to all the organizations that have made it possible to make this dream a reality, though it is not sufficient,” the pastor says. “We must continue to advance, as in 2016 only the Haitians came and today we see Central Americans and the Mexicans, who today occupy 45 percent of the shelter.”

He adds that help, in the form of both financial contributions and expertise, has come from religious institutions in the US, such as Joyce Meyer Ministries and Bethel Church, from the University of California, San Diego, and from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

“It is also important to mention that all of this is being built with the labor of the migrants themselves,” Banda says. “Because we have bricklayers, people who work in plumbing, in wiring and electricity, and that puts more heart and soul into this entire project.”

Stressing the importance of providing for the education of the migrant children, the pastor hails an agreement with the Mexican government and the Yes We Can World Foundation that will see qualified teachers take charge of preparing the young pupils for a seamless transition to US schools once their parents obtain asylum north of the border.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) registered a record of more than 1.7 million illegal border crossings in the 2021 fiscal year.

Since the 2022 fiscal year began on Oct. 1, 2021, the CBP says that more than 2.15 million migrants have been intercepted along the US’s southern border. EFE ma/dr

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