Deportees and Refugees Crowd Migrant Shelters

Like 20 years ago, migrants still come to Tijuana in need of food, warmth and a place to rest their heads. But in important respects, the circumstances of newcomers have changed at two Roman Catholic Church-supported shelters in the northern Mexican border city.

Unlike the days of two decades past, when virtually all of the migrants receiving help were people attempting to cross into the United States without papers, most of today’s clients at Tijuana’s Casa del Migrante are individuals who have been deported from the United States, said a  priest in charge of the shelter.

Father Patricio Murphy, director of Casa del Migrante, estimated that 87 percent of his shelter’s clients were deportees from the United States. Currently, Casa del Migrante is providing 80 Mexican nationals with food, medical attention, psychological support and other services, Father Murphy said.

The migrant advocate said another important and growing group in Tijuana consists of refugees who have abandoned the troubled states of Guerrero and Michoacan, particularly since last December. And especially during the last two weeks, Father Murphy stressed, there has been a spike in the number of clients claiming they left their homes because of the “quotas,” or protection fees, charged by organized criminal groups the authorities are unable to contain.

“They come fleeing the violence that is being registered in their states,” Father Murphy said.
“They are people who come with nothing,” he added. “They left their work and their property behind. Their children can’t go to school and they can’t work.”

Father Murphy told a reporter that he did not have exact refugee numbers on hand. But Mother Dalia of Centro Madre Assunta said her shelter has served 115 women and children from Michoacan in the month of January alone. Centro Madre Assunta is a migrant refuge specializing in aiding women and children.

The refugees’ intentions, Father Murphy added, is to obtain humanitarian visas for entry into the United States.

In comments to the press, the head of Tijuana’s employer association said his city was unprepared for an influx of refugees from Michoacan. Jorge Escalante Martinez, president of the local branch of Coparmex, called on the government and the private sector to jointly find employment options for new residents arriving from the south.

“There is no way we can stop the efforts of these families to seek a better life and, above all, safety for their members” Escalante said.

Sources: El Sol de Tijuana, January 30 and 31, 2014. Articles by Adan Mondragon and Juan Guiza., January 30, 2014.

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