Tijuana, Ready with Open Arms

Since 2016, the topic of immigration has been widely discussed in U.S. politics. The President has made it known that, in his opinion, immigrants should not be coming into the United States because they are “job-stealing immigrants,” because they are likely to commit crimes, or are simply “rapists.” These labels certainly do not apply to every individual who truly, for the most part, seeks to live a life of stability and security that is otherwise unavailable to him or her in their own home county.

In regards to the much-discussed caravan that has made its way through Central America, it is known that 2,000 people are expected to arrive near the U.S.-Mexican border in Tijuana within the next few weeks. It is unknown how many will come at a time, but to date, 80 people have arrived in Tijuana hoping to seek political asylum near the port entry cities of San Isidro or Otay Mesa.  These 2,000 migrants include women, children (teenagers, toddlers, infants) and men.

A lot has come into play since this journey began. President Trump “threatened to cut aid to Central American nations, close the U.S.-Mexican border and deploy troops if Mexico fails to stop the migrants.” Rather than helping these people, the Mexican authorities have given in to stopping migrants pass through, as many of them are doing so without the proper documentation.

However, Mexico’s government has vowed to acknowledge the human dignity of all these migrants. The government has even offered refuge, asylum or work visas to the migrants. It has already issued 2,697 temporary visas to assist many migrants that have come in as they try to figure out a more permanent or secure situation. Despite Mexico’s willingness to help those they can, several of these migrants want to make it to the United States because of promised opportunities. They are more hopeful in succeeding there than in Mexico.

However, for those that have come into Mexico without proper documentation, making it to the United States is even more difficult.

One key thing to be aware of in this situation is that many of these migrants flee because of the political state in their home countries. It is a choice many are not wanting to take, but have to for the sake of their families. Many leave behind violence, exploitation, and unfortunate economic situations. If things were different, many would not leave their home countries. These people are hoping to seek political asylum in the United States, which is a very arduous process, as the time it takes to file paperwork, be interviewed and approved can take up to 45-60 days.

In early November, I had the greatest privilege of getting to visit Tijuana to learn more about the border issues and to be more informed about the immigration issues that affect those in Mexico. There are many shelters that dedicate their time and money to assist and welcome people who have either been deported or who are hoping to enter the United States. For privacy reasons, I will not disclose the names of people or the shelters I visited, but it is certain that the effort these volunteers and workers put into assisting those who are seeking better lives, is incredible.

Several of these shelters take in all kinds of people regardless of ethnicity, race, gender, religious beliefs, etc. It is these shelters that wholly respect the human person. Though it is difficult to be selfless during times like these, they provide a guaranteed place to sleep, 3 meals a day, clothes, toiletries, etc.

The specific shelter I was able to visit assists in helping migrants find jobs while they try to figure out what they wish to continue doing. Several services, such as access to psychologists, lawyers, educators, and more, are also offered. Their doors are always open to welcome anyone and everyone free of judgment.

This shelter mentioned they were ready to receive the influx of migrants that are making their way towards Tijuana. They are working alongside other shelters to ensure they have all the resources necessary to assist them in any way they can. Expecting them any time soon, the shelter is hoping to be able to both provide the migrants with their needs upon their arrival, and guide them through their difficult situation. As of now, it is uncertain where many of these migrants will end up. It is likely many will wish to settle in Tijuana as the need for workers can be found just about anywhere. Many, of course, will not surrender their American Dream of being successful in the United States.

Putting politics aside, it is crucial to acknowledge that this journey is not easy and that many will not make it. If my time in Tijuana was able to reaffirm anything, it is of the importance of seeing dignity in each human, and recognizing that everyone is worthy of goodness. While the political aspect of this topic is very divided, the question of humanity shouldn’t be. This story will only continue to unfold as those in the caravan continue to make their way from Mexico City up to Tijuana. It is only hoped that wherever life takes them, they stay safe and assured that Tijuana is ready to welcome them with open arms.

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