Heavy rain brings additional chaos, hardship to migrant shelter in Tijuana


Migrant caravans winding their way toward the U.S. are reigniting rhetoric and arguments about immigration and border security. And it’s not the first time.

TIJUANA, Mexico — Heavy rainfall made tough living conditions even rougher for thousands of Central American migrants housed at a makeshift shelter near the U.S.-Mexico border, as plans to open up a second, roofed shelter languished for most of Thursday.

Since Wednesday night, light rain soaked the ground at the Benito Juarez sports complex near Tijuana’s downtown. But steady, heavy rain on Thursday morning completely saturated the grounds, causing thick mud and large puddles inside the outdoor facility.

More than 6,000 migrants who traveled to this border city in a caravan are staying inside the complex. As the rain fell, they rushed to add tarps, plastic and whatever other protection they had to their makeshift tents. 

Karen Cruz from Trujillo, Honduras, said following the initial rain last week, she and two other people she’s sharing a space with bought a tarp to place over their heads. But on Wednesday, anticipating the rain, they bought a second tarp and plastic covers to completely enclose the space.

“We wanted to find a place to stay for a few days while the rain passed, but it’s too expensive and we don’t have enough for that,” she said.


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As the heavy rain flooded the dirt fields, many migrants uprooted their tents, or abandoned them altogether, to seek refuge elsewhere.

By Thursday afternoon, dozens of them took their belongings and set up camp on the sidewalks of streets leading to the shelter, with little interruption from police officers and immigration officials on-site. Others sought refuge elsewhere.

Ulises Leon, a local pastor for a Pentecostal church near the shelter, helped two migrants push their belongings through the rain. Flanked by two small children, the three adults walked out of the shelter and toward the church. 

After checking out conditions at the shelter, Leon said he had decided to take in some of the migrants, but only had space for about 10.

“We are opening up the church to them. At least until the rain stops,” Leon said. “After that, if they want to find another place, we’ll figure out a way. I have some contacts.”

Despite the rain, many migrants continued lining up for long periods of time to get a hot meal from many of the volunteers who came from both sides of the border to help feed the group. 


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The rain also renewed concerns from health officials about the development of common illnesses, as well as more serious conditions. So far, there has been no outbreak of any serious ailments.

The Baja California state health department said it had provided treatment to more than 2,200 people at the shelter. 

“Sixty percent of all consultations that we’ve done are for respiratory infections,” said Raymundo Aguilera, a spokesman for the state health department. “That could go up because of the weather.”

Although the Mexican federal government signaled that it would open up a second, indoor shelter for the migrants, it hasn’t released any details so far.

On Wednesday, the city cleaned out an events center about 11 miles from the current facility.

On Thursday evening, buses arrived to start taking the first groups of migrants to the new shelter.


A peaceful protest at the U.S.-Mexico border turned chaotic when several hundred migrants rushed the border fence.

Amid the rain, nearly a dozen migrants announced plans to carry out a hunger strike to pressure the Mexican and the U.S. governments to speed up the processing of asylum claims on both sides of the border.

But as they tried to walk toward the pedestrian crossing near the San Ysidro port of entry, Mexican federal police blocked their access, citing security concerns stemming from Sunday’s clashes in which U.S. border officials used tear gas to disperse crowds that tried to rush the border.



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Read or Share this story: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/border-issues/2018/11/29/rain-brings-chaos-migrant-shelter-tijuana/2156876002/


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