Increasing Challenges for Migrants
The Beginning of Casa Del Migrante
Casa Del Migrante is a migrant shelter created from the efforts extended by the Missionaries of St. Charles- Scalabrinians, which are part of the Scalabrini International Migration Network. In an interview with the Borgen Project, director Father Pat Murphy described the Casa’s origins. “It started in 1987,” he said. “This will be our 35th anniversary in April of 2022.” Originally, Casa Del Migrante was built for traveling migrants from the south as a “house of hospitality, where [they]could stop and rest,” said Father Murphy.
However, this changed during the late 80s to 90s when the United States began upping deportations. The influx of deported migrants in Tijuana changed Casa Del Migrante’s function from a rest stop to a house of deported men. Then, in 2019, they underwent another phase shift. They began accepting families as the need for aid increased with more caravans.
Migrant Issues, Services and Their Importance
Casa Del Migrante offers a well-rounded array of services for migrants either waiting for asylum or rebuilding their lives in Tijuana. Their main service is accommodation, which is offered for up to 45 days. According to Father Murphy, the Casa houses 90-100 people at a time, although this number was higher before the pandemic. The Casa also provides three meals a day, access to medical care, referrals, internet, telephone lines and security lockboxes to store money or important documents. The Casa also engages with supply distribution and employment assistance services.
These services are all important because they offer migrants in Tijuana a level of security and opportunity not afforded to them in encampment situations outside of shelters. Migrants face difficult circumstances in camps near the U.S. – Mexico border. These unregulated camps typically include mostly tarps and tents. Therefore, migrants are at risk of more sickness, illness, theft and crime by gangs because of their exposure.
Migrants looking to save their items or money may not be able to with low security, making Casa’s lockbox program vital for the migrants’ progress in pulling themselves out of poverty. Additionally, with survival as the number one focus of migrants, children’s educations may often be neglected. The Casa helps by providing both a children’s daycare program and a schoolhouse with a computer room. This engages current and generational poverty by helping parents who must work to provide for their families and helping children better their chances of further education and better jobs in the future.
Migrants Face Misinformation
Many migrants arrive at the US-Mexico border with high hopes because they are led to believe that claiming asylum is easy. Father Murphy’s insight revealed that in the case of many migrants, “those who had something lost it, and now they have to start from scratch.” One example is when the United States finally opened the border crossing to those with vaccine cards on November 8. The word “open” led many migrants to believe that the border was open for more asylum. This only added to the ongoing situation of people dropping everything for a chance to cross into the United States.
However, Casa Del Migrante combats this issue through orientations given by lawyers. Every week, the Casa’s volunteer lawyers hold talks to keep people informed on how they claim asylum and the border’s status. At the beginning of her journey to Tijuana, a migrant who talked to The Borgen Project said she arrived “really lost, with zero blank information about what…the current situation [was]legally.” Additionally, the seminars that the lawyers provided were helpful. These talks continue to keep migrants aware of the reality of the migration situation.
Helping to Educate
The Casa also educates and counsels migrants on drugs, sexual health and human rights. Several migrants arrive, usually having gone through trauma through violence on the journey to Tijuana. Additionally, every Friday, alcoholics anonymous do sessions with both men and women on addiction.
Casa del Migrante furthers this productive reflection via their psychological services. In The Borgen Project’s interview with the migrant at the Casa, she stated that through counseling, she’s “felt an improvement emotionally” and achieved a stronger sense of stability staying in the Casa.
What is unique about Casa Del Migrante is its profound hospitality, domestic culture and community extension. Father Murphy stated that the nature of the Casa is “a home for migrants..it’s not an institution, we try to have family life here as best as we can.” During The Borgen Project’s visit to the Casa, the community between the residents was apparent, as children played together, parents greeted each other and different families ate meals together.
Even when residents leave Casa Del Migrante, its impact continues years later. According to Father Murphy over the last few years, the surrounding neighborhood of the Casa has become “filled with migrants,” who continue to invite volunteers over for birthdays or meals. This community is important in Casa Del Migrante’s fight against forces of discrimination and prejudice.
Around the world, many believe that migrants bring nothing but trouble, and Tijuana natives are no exception. In the migrant’s interview, she stated that migrants still lacked “equality of opportunities” due to discrimination stemming from negative stereotypes about migrants.
Yet, the Casa’s work in boosting the socioeconomic statuses of migrants contradicts these false understandings. According to Father Murphy, the organization continues to hear from families that have built up their lives due to the help provided by the Casa. As migrants in Tijuana make the most of their circumstances, they integrate themselves into society and show their right to equal opportunity.
In observing Casa Del Migrante’s work, prospects seem positive for the image of the migrant. Although challenges remain. The role of Casa Del Migrante goes beyond just aid 一 the organization itself is a herald to justice and graciousness.
– Hariana Sethi