Haitian influx continues through Tijuana, straining shelters

With the city’s shelters full, migrant advocates in Tijuana say they are in crisis mode — and calling for more government help in coping with large numbers of Mexicans, Haitians and others petitioning for entrance to the United States.

“People are waiting in the streets,” Father Patrick Murphy, director of Tijuana’s Casa del Migrante, said in an interview late last week. “We have people outside the door.”

The 160-bed shelter, run by members of the Catholic Scalabrinian order, is one of four non-government shelters in the city that have been offering food and shelter both to deportees and migrants hoping to enter the United States, many of them Mexicans fleeing violent areas of their country. Earlier this year, the shelters started taking in unprecedented number of Haitians.

Numbers provided last week by U.S. Customs and Border Protection showed that through July 31, a total of 3,060 Haitian “inadmissibles” sought admittance to the United States through San Diego ports of entry during the first 10 months of the current fiscal year.That is more than 15 times the number seeking entry through Miami during that same period.

“The whole Haitian increase is based in San Diego,” Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said last week during a stop in San Diego. He said the extent of smugglers’ involvement in getting them to the San Diego border remains unclear.

“It would seem that you almost always have to have a network to get here,” Kerlikowske said. “There’s got to be some kind of facilitation.”

For most Haitians, the ultimate destination is Miami or New York City, where there are established Haitian communities. Customs and Border Protection’s director of field operations in San Diego, Pete Flores, said some are saying they are afraid to return to Haiti, while some say they just want to find work.

The sharp increase in numbers of Mexicans, Haitians, and other foreigners last May overwhelmed Customs and Border Protection’s processing capacity, leaving hundreds to camp out outside San Ysidro’s pedestrian entrance. Customs and Border Protection has since begun processing the migrants on an appointment basis.

In a statement sent Friday, Tijuana’s Coalicion Pro-Defensa del Migrante, called on the Mexican government “to recognize the forced displacement of Mexican and foreign migrants who come to Tijuana in order to enter the United States as asylum petitioners.”

The groups are demanding that “federal, state and municipal authorities in Baja California assume their responsibility of providing comprehensive humanitarian assistance to persons in search of U.S. asylum who come through Tijuana.” The groups called for “the respect of their human rights, their freedom of transit, the absence of discrimination, as well as security and protection.”

Dibble writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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