On Friday, January 4th, SALEF staff as well as partners from the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN-LA) returned to the same shelter located adjacent to the now-empty Benito Juarez shelter that we visited on our last trip.
When we visited in late December we delivered food, cooking supplies, and cleaning materials. We packed their refrigerator with chicken and frozen vegetables and provided 80 lbs sacks of rice and beans. Although our donations help sustain this shelter, even a $1,000.00 donation of food and supplies last only days to weeks. This time we arrived to find police officers ready to forcibly remove the migrants on the authority of the Mexican government. We acted as legal observers throughout the evening.
SALEF Board Member David Giron documented the situation throughout the evening in the videos below, which have been shared widely across the U.S.
It is unclear why the Government moved to remove the migrants on Friday January 4th. The Mexican Government claimed rampant disease and public safety was the reason for the sudden action. Though there is no indication that this is the truth. Anecdotal reports suggest that the authorities have been trying to move the migrants away from the border for days – this shelter is less than a kilometer away from the border.
This picture shows that the Government declared the space condemned, “Clausurado,” and was moving to close the shelter.
The footage above and other media fueled the intense public pressure that has resulted in a court in Mexico placing a stay on the Mexican government’s attempt to remove the asylum seekers from the shelter. Below you can see the court order:
Injunction Demand, 4th Federal Injunction Court, Federal District of Tijuana Issued Friday January 4th 2019
SALEF and others, including Central American Resource Center (CARECEN-LA) and Al Otro Lado were there to assist the migrants by being legal observers, as the migrants sought and eventually achieved injunctive relief from the Mexican judicial system. This is a critical victory in their fight for basic human rights.
The shelter remains open today but there is a strong police presence. Police continue to hold a line outside the shelter. We have determined that food is being allowed in. However, despite having heard that individuals were allowed to enter and leave the shelter, we are now receiving reports that no one is being allowed into the shelter and individuals who leave the shelter are not able to reenter. The image and video below are from today, Saturday, January 5th.
It is unclear what will happen to the shelter and to the many migrants who depend on it. Migrants held a press conference this afternoon thanking Mexico for its hospitality and requesting relief from the conflicts that have driven them from their homes. Despite their entreaty, the situation remains uncertain.
We are concerned by the false claims of rampant sickness and risks to public safety. There is no clear sense of which government agency or authority is managing this effort to relocate migrants. The lack of accountability and transparency are putting our brothers and sisters at even greater risk than before.
On this trip we also made a return visit to Casa YMCA where approximately 40 unaccompanied minors, mostly boys aged 13 to 17, are sheltering as they await their opportunity to seek asylum in the US. This is the same shelter that housed the two young Honduran teens who were recently killed in Tijuana (NPR radio report transcript). We cooked a meal for the teens who traveled thousands of miles, many of them entirely on their own, from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
We would like to thank friends and allies nationwide for their support – so many organizations and individuals have come together to work for the sake of the humanity and dignity of the Central American asylum seekers. Special thanks to CARECEN, El Rescate, Clinica Monsenor Romero, the Office of Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and many other private individuals that have lent their expertise and support to this important cause.
SALEF and its partners will continue to monitor the situation in Tijuana as well as to both lead and support efforts to ensure that the basic needs of migrants are being met and that they are treated fairly and with respect by the Mexican government.