How Casa Del Migrante helps migrants in Tijuana

SAN DIEGO, California – As a city on the border between the United States and Mexico, Tijuana receives an influx migrants every year from southern Mexico, South America and other parts of the world fleeing violence and corruption. Some come by bus, plane or even through traveling caravans. Almost all seek to enter the United States either by physically crossing the border, seeking asylum, or seeking refugee status. However, these processes are much more difficult than before.

Growing challenges for migrants

Since the 1990s, the United States has tightened border security, making the results of cross-border treks less promising. Since 2016, the The United States has decreased the number refugees and immigrants accepted. As a result, some migrants have to rebuild their lives in Tijuana. For those seeking asylum, the process often takes months or years. As a result, many migrants in Tijuana have to wait at the border in camps or regional shelters.

During this waiting period, migrants often face poverty and the many security and human rights challenges that accompany it. The migrants are usually on their own without the help of the Mexican government. However, one organization heavily involved in helping migrants is Casa Del Migrante. It is a Tijuana-based organization that provides a host of services to migrants looking to get back on their feet. Usually, either while waiting for asylum, or by building a new life in Tijuana.

The beginning of Casa Del Migrante

Casa Del Migrante is a migrant refuge created thanks to the efforts of the Missionaries of Saint-Charles-Scalabriniens, who are part of the International Scalabrini Migration Network. In an interview with The Borgen Project, director Father Pat Murphy described the origins of the Casa. “It started in 1987,” he said. “This will be our 35th anniversary in April 2022.” Originally, Casa Del Migrante was built for migrants from the south as a “house of hospitality, where [they]could stop and rest, ”said Father Murphy.

However, that changed between the late ’80s and the’ 90s when the United States began to increase deportations. The influx of deported migrants to Tijuana has changed the function of Casa Del Migrante from a rest area to a home for deported men. Then, in 2019, they underwent another phase change. They began to accept families as the need for help increased with the number of caravans.

Migrant problems, services and their importance

Casa Del Migrante offers a full range of services to migrants awaiting asylum or rebuilding their lives in Tijuana. Their main service is hosting, which is offered for up to 45 days. According to Father Murphy, the Casa is home to 90 to 100 people at a time, although that number was higher before the pandemic. La Casa too provides three meals a day, access to medical care, referrals, the Internet, phone lines and safety deposit boxes to store money or important documents. La Casa also engages with supply distribution and employment assistance services.

These services are all important because they offer migrants in Tijuana a level of security and opportunities that are not available to them in camp situations outside the shelters. Migrants facing difficult circumstances in camps near the US-Mexican border. These unregulated camps usually consist mainly of tarps and tents. Therefore, migrants are in danger more disease, illness, theft and crime by gangs due to their exposure.

Migrants who seek to hold on to property or money may not be able to do so with poor security, making Casa’s safe-deposit box program vital for migrants’ progress in lifting themselves out of poverty. In addition, since survival is the main objective of migrants, children’s education can often to be overlooked. La Casa helps by offering both a daycare program for children and a school with a computer room. It engages current and generational poverty by helping parents who must work to support their families and helping children improve their chances of continuing their education and finding better jobs in the future.

Migrants face disinformation

Many migrants arrive at the US-Mexico border with high hopes, as they are led to believe that seeking asylum is easy. Father Murphy’s insight revealed that in the case of many migrants, “those who had something have lost it, and now they have to start from scratch.” One example is when the United States finally opened the border crossing to people with vaccination cards on November 8. The word “open” led many migrants to believe the border was open for more asylum. This has only added to the current situation of people giving up everything for a chance to cross the United States.

However, Casa Del Migrante fights this problem through the guidance given by lawyers. Every week, Casa volunteer lawyers organize interviews to keep people informed about how they are applying for asylum and the status of the border. At the start of her trip to Tijuana, a migrant who spoke to The Borgen Project said she had arrived “really lost, with no blank information on what … the current situation. [was]legally. ”In addition, the seminars offered by the lawyers were useful. These talks continue to keep migrants abreast of the reality of the migration situation.

Help educate

La Casa also educates and advises migrants on drugs, sexual health and human rights. Several migrants arrive, usually traumatized by the violence on their journey to Tijuana. In addition, every Friday, alcoholics anonymous organize sessions with male and female drug addicts.

Casa del Migrante continues this productive reflection through its psychological services. In Project Borgen’s interview with the migrant at the Casa, she said that thanks to the counseling she had “felt an emotional improvement” and gained a stronger sense of stability while staying in the Casa.

Rare Sincerity

What is unique about Casa Del Migrante is its deep hospitality, domestic culture and community outreach. Father Murphy said that the nature of the Casa is “a home for migrants… it is not an institution, we are trying to have a family life here as best we can”. When the Borgen Project visited the Casa, the community among the residents was evident, as the children played together, the parents greeted each other and different families ate their meals together.

Even when residents leave Casa Del Migrante, its impact continues years later. According to Father Murphy, in recent years the neighborhood surrounding the Casa has become “filled with migrants,” who continue to invite volunteers for birthdays or meals. This community is important in the fight of Casa Del Migrante against the forces of discrimination and prejudices.

All over the world, many believe that migrants only bring problems, and the natives of Tijuana are no exception. In the interview with the migrant, she said that migrants still do not have “equal opportunities” due to discrimination resulting from negative stereotypes about migrants.

Yet the Casa’s work to improve the socio-economic status of migrants contradicts these misconceptions. According to Father Murphy, the organization continues to hear from families who have built their lives with the help provided by the Casa. As migrants from Tijuana make the most of their situation, they integrate into society and demonstrate their right to equal opportunities.

Looking at the work of Casa Del Migrante, the outlook seems positive for the image of the migrant. Although challenges remain. Casa Del Migrante’s role goes beyond mere aid – the organization itself is a herald of justice and benevolence.

– Hariana Sethi
Photo: Flickr

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