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A guard game for immigrants and border agents on 2 sides of the wall: NPR

Border Patrol guards part of the border crossing between the United States and Mexico, as seen from Playas de Tijuana, Mexico.

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Border Patrol guards part of the border crossing between the United States and Mexico, as seen from Playas de Tijuana, Mexico.

Guillermo Arias for NPR

For Tijuana, the Central American caravans that arrived in November became a humanitarian challenge. For the Trump administration they pose a threat to national security, as well as a powerful and useful symbol of why the United States needs stronger border security.

"We do not know who else is in that group," said Rodney Scott, head of the San Diego Border Patrol Sector. "The huge numbers indicate that there are nefarious people in the caravans."

In the months after the arrival of the caravan in early November, hundreds of migrants lost their patience and jumped illegally from the border closure. Scott says his agents have arrested more than 2,500 of them in the no man's land between steel borderblocks.

During a recent visit to Tijuana, the migrants of the caravans seemed more disgusting than depraved.

Migrants who expect an asylum application from the US customs and border guards are waiting in the port of El Chaparral in Tijuana.

Guillermo Arias for NPR


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Migrants who expect an asylum application from the US customs and border guards are waiting in the port of El Chaparral in Tijuana.

Guillermo Arias for NPR

The list

Their number has fallen dramatically from about 6,000 to less than 2,000 today. They stay in makeshift shelters throughout the city, waiting week after week for their own number that is called up in a communication that is done every morning in a small park near the American port of entry.

"Today we start with number 1.627. Please take your place in the queue", says a man with a megaphone.

And with that, Darling Adalid Mercado is the first in a ragged row of caravan migrants who cross the border this morning and apply for asylum with American immigration agents. Only 40 to 60 people are admitted every day.

Darling Adalid Mercado, 19 (middle), left his home in Ocotepeque, Honduras, three months ago to flee from city gangs who wanted to recruit him.

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Darling Adalid Mercado, 19 (middle), left his home in Ocotepeque, Honduras, three months ago to flee from city gangs who wanted to recruit him.

Guillermo Arias for NPR

Adalid Mercado is a clean-cut 19-year-old in a ball cap, with a crucifix around his neck. He says that three months ago he left his home in Ocotepeque, Honduras, to flee from city gangs who wanted to recruit him. He is angry with the volunteers who have organized the caravan, which according to him has given bad advice.

"Pueblo Sin Fronteras [Village Without Borders] is an organization that told us to go to the caravan, that everything would be easy, "he says. Then you are on the road and it is really difficult, very difficult. They are deceiving you. They say we are going to the Mexico USA. border and we will all cross together. But the truth is that you can not do this. It is illegal. "

A woman walks near the temporary shelter run by Ambassadors For Christ in Tijuana.

Guillermo Arias for NPR


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A woman walks near the temporary shelter run by Ambassadors For Christ in Tijuana.

Guillermo Arias for NPR

Adalid Mercado says that once he arrived in Tijuana, other activists drove him with the whip: "Come on, honey, jump on the fence!" "But he realized that he would get the harsh punishments from the American authorities and it would be better to wait for his number to come.

Once he has crossed over and if he is not sent to a detention facility for migrants, Adalid Mercado wants to join his brother in San Antonio and find work.

Pueblo Sin Fronteras – a Mexico-based organization for immigrant solidarity – posted a reaction to recent criticism of his actions on his Facebook page. They expressly point out that "criminalization and slander of our work" accompany the caravan. The group swears to continue to support and protect the human rights of Central American migrants during transit.

The caravan numbers have fallen dramatically from about 6,000 to less than 2,000 today.

Guillermo Arias for NPR


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Guillermo Arias for NPR

The caravan numbers have fallen dramatically from about 6,000 to less than 2,000 today.

Guillermo Arias for NPR

Waiting to cross

The waiting game in the dirty shelters in Tijuana is grating on everyone's nerves.

Blanca Irias and her family, from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, cool their heels in a shelter of an evangelical church called Ambassadors For Christ, located next to a smelly creek popular with a family of spotted pigs. She is a heavily built woman with tired eyes. They stay in a camping tent set up in the church sanctuary.

Every day she, her daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren discuss what their next move should be.

Blanca Irias (right) and her daughter, from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, stay in a camping tent set up in the ecclesiastical sanctuary in Tijuana.

Guillermo Arias for NPR


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Blanca Irias (right) and her daughter, from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, stay in a camping tent set up in the ecclesiastical sanctuary in Tijuana.

Guillermo Arias for NPR

"We are frustrated, we have been here for a long time," says Irias with a sigh. "We are discussing the possibility of staying here in Tijuana because there is work and it pays, there are days when we wonder whether we should jump on the fence." We do not know what we will do. "

Humanitarian visas and a job

More and more Hondurans who have come into the caravan decide to stay in Tijuana. Mexico has spent more than 2000 humanitarian visas allowing them to work in this thriving border city on the Pacific coast. While the city government was at first hostile about their arrival, many citizens have warmed up to them.

"We have seen these people working in the city, in barber shops, selling clothes, taking on jobs in assembly companies, people who want to get ahead, we have no problem with it." Here in Tijuana there is work for everyone who is willing to work, "says Juan Carlos Rodriguez Marquez, a local lawyer who ran his dog past a beach park.

Santos Favian Gomez washes dishes for a humanitarian group, World Central Kitchen. He says that he fled escaping gangs in Choluteca, Honduras.

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Santos Favian Gomez washes dishes for a humanitarian group, World Central Kitchen. He says that he fled escaping gangs in Choluteca, Honduras.

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Santos Favian Gomez says that he fled fleeing gangs in Choluteca, Honduras. He did a job at a humanitarian group, World Central Kitchen, which is preparing hundreds of free meals for the migrants.

"I'm staying in Tijuana," he says. & # 39; Because I hear that when you enter the United States, you throw in jail, it is better to work here than to be a prisoner there. & # 39;

Favian Gomez, 41, says he has traveled here alone. He will save a little money to send home to his wife. He will try to find a house so that he can leave the overcrowded shelter where he is staying. And he will make his house in Tijuana, at least temporarily.

"It's good here," he says, scrubbing beans from a pan, "and the people are nice."

He says that any arrangement that he can work out in Tijuana is better than returning to Honduras.

The World Central Kitchen prepares hundreds of free meals for the migrants in Tijuana.

Guillermo Arias for NPR


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The World Central Kitchen prepares hundreds of free meals for the migrants in Tijuana.

Guillermo Arias for NPR

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