As they wait, mi­grants look for work

Many are wait­ing to ap­ply for asy­lum in the United States.


TI­JUANA, Mex­ico — Be­fore dawn each morn­ing, mi­grants slip away from a Ti­juana shel­ter within sight of the U.S. border to head to jobs across this sprawl­ing city. Mov­ing solo or in pairs, they are eas­ily rec­og­nized by their de­ter­mined strides as peo­ple with some­place to be.

By sun­rise, an­other crowd has gath­ered at a cor­ner near the shel­ter to wait for job of­fers. On a re­cent morn­ing, a dozen mi­grants scram­bled into the bed of a Dodge pickup, their en­thu­si­asm bring­ing a chuckle from the driver. The mi­grants didn’t even know where they were go­ing or when they’d be back — some car­ried bedrolls — but said the work would be peel­ing toma­toes.

Fac­ing a likely month­s­long wait in Ti­juana be­fore even get­ting the chance to re­quest asy­lum in the United States, many mi­grants are look­ing for work. Oth­ers who have al­ready de­cided to stay in Mex­ico have ap­plied for, and in some cases re­ceived, per­mits to work in Mex­ico. It’s some­thing the Mex­i­can au­thor­i­ties have en­cour­aged all the mi­grants to do in the hopes that jobs will help them put down roots here rather than cross­ing into the U.S.

In most cases the mi­grants are re­lieved to have some­thing that takes them away from the mis­er­able con­di­tions in the over­crowded shel­ter, where the hours pass slowly, and puts some money in their pock­ets.

“Here you make a lit­tle money,” said Nel­son David Lan­dav­erde, a 21-year-old Hon­duran who was out look­ing for food for his 16-month old son when some­one ap­proached and asked if he wanted to work at a car wash. He didn’t think twice. He and his preg­nant wife have put their names on an in­for­mal list of thou­sands of po­ten­tial ap­pli­cants for asy­lum in the U.S., but in the mean­time he’s ea­ger to earn money to make their lives a lit­tle eas­ier in Ti­juana.

The job pays about 75 cents per car, and by wash­ing as many as 10 cars on a good day he hopes to take in more than Mex­ico’s min­i­mum wage, which is less than $5 a day.

While au­thor­i­ties have closed the shel­ter near the border and re­lo­cated many of the mi­grants to an­other more dis­tant shel­ter, hun­dreds have re­fused to leave the old one and are camped out­side. The rea­son many give is that they have found jobs nearby.

Marco Ros­ales, a Hon­duran im­mi­grant who has lived in Ti­juana for eight years, stood in the street sur­rounded by Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants ea­ger for his job ad­vice.

“Don’t come here with the men­tal­ity of Hon­duras,” he said. “This is a new coun­try, a new state where you can change your­self if you want to.”

He only had room that morn­ing for a hand­ful to work at an­other nearby car wash, but he was sure he could find work for more later if they were will­ing.

“I’m try­ing to ex­plain to them that you’ll get ahead do­ing things the right way,” he said, when asked why he had urged them to work in­stead of join­ing a march to the border. “If we do things the wrong way we’re not go­ing to get any­where. If they want to march to close the border it’s not go­ing to ac­com­plish any­thing.”

At a down­town lo­ca­tion mi­grants were gath­ered to start the pa­per­work to ap­ply for tem­po­rary visas in Mex­ico that would al­low them to work legally. Once they get their Mex­i­can iden­ti­fi­ca­tion num­bers they can meet with re­cruiters for assem­bly plants, where turnover is high and jobs are al­ways avail­able.

Baja Cal­i­for­nia state of­fi­cials say they have iden­ti­fied thou­sands of jobs that the mi­grants could ap­ply for.

Fer­nando Her­nan­dez said he had just ar­rived in Ti­juana a day ear­lier, but was there to find work while he awaited a chance to en­ter the U.S.

“If we can cross (to the U.S.), we cross, but if not, you’ve got to work in the mean­time,” said the 24-yearold who has worked in ware­houses in his na­tive Hon­duras.

At­ten­dance at a job fair set up to help the mi­grants find work has surged since a Nov. 25 march on the U.S. border de­volved into chaos when some mi­grants breached the border and U.S. agents re­sponded by fir­ing tear gas into Mex­ico. Be­fore the march, only about 100 mi­grants were show­ing up each day, a num­ber that has grown to 400-plus or more since.

‘Don’t come here with the men­tal­ity of Hon­duras. This is a new coun­try, a new state where you can change your­self if you want to.’ Marco Ros­ales hon­duran im­mi­grant

Re­becca black­hell / As­so­ci­ated Press

A cou­ple em­braces as they wait in line at a job fair where mi­grants are able to ap­ply for Mex­i­can work per­mits, re­cover lost Hon­duran iden­tity doc­u­ments and meet with po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers in Ti­juana, Mex­ico.

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