More buses of exhausted people in a caravan of Central American asylum seekers reached the U.S. border as the city of Tijuana converted a municipal gymnasium into a temporary shelter and the migrants came to grips with the reality that they will be on the Mexican side of the frontier for an extended stay.
Tijuana’s robust network of shelters was already stretched to the limit, having squeezed in double their capacity or more as families slept on the floor on mats. A gated outdoor courtyard can accommodate hundreds more. There are real questions about how the city of more than 1.6 million will manage to handle the migrant caravans working their way through Mexico, which may total 10,000 people in all.
With U.S. border inspectors at the main crossing into San Diego processing only about 100 asylum claims a day, it could take weeks if not months to process the thousands in the caravan that departed from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, more than a month ago.
To claim asylum in San Diego, migrants enter their names in a tattered notebook held together by duct tape and managed by the migrants in a plaza outside the entry to the main border crossing. Migrants who registered six weeks ago are just now getting their names called. The waiting list has grown to more than 3,000 names and stands to become much longer with the caravans.
Francisco Rueda, the top deputy to Baja California state governor, said that if all migrants from the caravan currently in Tijuana were to register to seek asylum in the U.S., they would likely have to wait four months in Mexico at current processing rates. For that reason, the state has asked Mexican federal authorities to encourage others in caravans to go to other border cities.
There are 7,000 jobs available in the state for those who can obtain legal status in Mexico, Rueda added. He touted Tijuana’s integration of Haitian migrants over the last two years and the state’s relatively low unemployment rate.