“Now I’m hopeful,” says Maria, 38, who fled Michoacan with just three changes of clothes in April and traveled 2,500 km by land to reach Tijuana, on the northwestern border of Mexico, to request political asylum in USA.
The country registered a record explosion of illegal immigrants who crossed that border fleeing political and economic crises. The reopening announced on November 8 to travelers with visas feeds the hopes of thousands of others who are waiting in Mexico for an opportunity to start over.
“We came fleeing from organized crime. Not because we are criminals, “says Maria, whose real name was withheld on request.
His eldest son was recruited by a criminal gang last year, as were several relatives. After threats, she fled with her husband, two young children and other relatives.
For six months, Maria has been waiting for her asylum request to be considered.
Meanwhile, he lives in the makeshift camp The Chaparral, where dozens of families have settled in precarious plastic tents after being rejected at the border, open only to national citizens, residents and essential workers since March 2020, due to the pandemic.
“I would cross the river”
With a decrease in infections in both countries, the migratory passage was restored on November 8 for those who have a visa and are vaccinated against Covid-19.
“I was very happy,” says Pérez, who is also in the camp, where life “is not easy,” because there is no electricity and he was fenced off by the Mexican authorities.
Maria is confident that she will receive an answer. “But if they deny me political asylum, my thinking is to cross illegally. I would even cross the river if possible. Our life in Mexico is in great danger,” he said.
Between October 2020 and September 2021, the United States recorded 1.7 million people illegally entering its southwest border, the highest number since the beginning of the historical series.
“By restricting border crossing for asylum reasons, which border policies The United States have done is to create a very large and very desperate group of people waiting on the Mexican side, who realize that the waiting time is very long, “explains the director of the School of Political Science at the University of San Diego, David Shirk.
“If I wait … they kill us”
“I couldn’t wait, that’s why I took the risk,” says Margarita, who left her native Bogota along with her husband and two children for being the target of threats from FARC.
Her husband Luis says that he survived an attack years ago but that this year they were threatened again. The names are fictitious, at the request of the couple.
Margarita says she ruled out legal alternatives to migrate because they took too long. “I said” if I wait to do it in 2022 or 2023, they kill us. “
They packed four suitcases and left for Mexico. In Tijuana, they followed signs until they reached a river. With the water to the chest, they lost almost everything. “We only had the papers, the bible and two changes of clothes,” says Margarita showing her belongings in two nylon sacks.
The US authorities took them to a detention center and separated them for three days. The couple and their five-year-old son were transferred to a migrant shelter operated by Catholic charities in San Diego pending a court hearing, while their 19-year-old daughter remained in the detention center.
Margarita’s phone rang while she was talking to AFP. It was his daughter, with whom he had not spoken for ten days, and who had just been released in another shelter.
“Forgive me, forgive me,” the mother stammered in tears, seeing her daughter on the screen of the only cell phone they kept.
“The worst is over,” Luis sighed.
This San Diego retreat is a revolving door of entrances and exits. Some 400 migrants arrive daily and spend between two and four days, before leaving for their final destinations where they will await a decision on their case. Most of the immigrants here are Brazilians and Venezuelans.
For David Shirk, the economic recovery of the United States will attract more immigrants in search of work, so it is crucial to rethink the immigration system.
The professor emphasizes that the difference between the government of Donald Trump and that of Joe Biden, is that Biden has reduced the emphasis on building a wall, but avoids being weak, because the border issue is important for the opposition.
“It’s a constant game to show who is tougher at border controls, and that’s not good for the United States,” he says. “It is something we have to fix but for which there is no immediate solution in sight.”