Asylum Seekers Displaced from Shelters by Heavy Rains
Over five thousand migrants were sheltered at the Benito Juarez Sports Complex in the Zona Norte neighborhood of Tijuana, Mexico, until rain left the facility flooded. Less than a week later, the majority of the migrants were moved to a new shelter ten miles southeast of the previous one, yet some remain outside of Benito Juarez.
Dozens of migrants remain camped outside of the Benito Juárez Sports Complex, despite the government-owned and run facility shutting down on Sunday, December 2. Some decided not to move to the new shelter because of how far it is from the port of entry, where applications to seek asylum in the United States are taken.
Jorge Montoya, 43, who was sheltered at Benito Juarez, isn’t sure if he will be going to the new shelter because he is afraid of missing his asylum case number. “They’re not handling things right... the Mexican government here,” said Montoya. According to a Mexican State Police officer, all people that remained sheltered outside of Benito Juarez will be forced to move from the area on Friday, December 7.
Those who chose to move to the new shelter packed up their belongings as buses lined up in front of Benito Juarez to take them to the new shelter, formerly known as El Barretal in Tijuana, Mexico.
Tijuana’s largest migrant shelter is located in the Mariano Matamoros neighborhood in Tijuana, and was once home to a nightclub. The facility is mainly outdoors, with concrete floors, and also has an indoor area where families with young children are being sheltered.
As migrants filled the new shelter, cars full of donations also entered the shelter. People in line to receive food, clothes, blankets, and other items filled the concrete grounds. The general coordinator of the El Barretal facility is Mario Medina De La Torre, a social worker with 25 years of experience working with non-governmental organizations. The Corsair spoke to him in Spanish and translated the interview. When asked what the biggest differences are between Benito Juarez and El Barretal, De La Torre said, “Space, is one. It has a roof, two. Sanitary bathrooms and showers, even though we’re fixing some of them right now.” He also stated that the new facility has a 24 hour hospital and a permanent presence of lawyers from the United States.
Some people are enjoying the new shelter more than the old one, such as eleven year old Herman Reyes. He was riding around on his scooter outside of his tent that his mother had just set up. The Corsair spoke to the boy in Spanish and translated the interview. When asked why he liked this shelter more, Herman said, “because there’s more space here than [at Benito Juarez].”
Janet Reyes, the mother of Herman, found the old shelter to be better. “Well, there was better because it had bathrooms… and here, there’s a lot of sun… it’s different,” said Reyes.
Thousands of people in the El Barretal shelter await their next step in their journey to seek asylum.
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Captions in Article Updated January 25, 2019 with expanded reporting and a uniform location description.