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Tijuana Shuts Down Migrant Shelter In Sports Complex

Rain pouring on a migrant camp in Tijuana, Nov. 29, 2018.
Priya Sridhar
Rain pouring on a migrant camp in Tijuana, Nov. 29, 2018.
Tijuana Shuts Down Migrant Shelter In Sports Complex
Tijuana Shuts Down Migrant Shelter In Sports Complex GUEST: Jean Guerrero, border reporter, KPBS News

More rain is in the forecast posing more problems for members of the migrant caravan's still living in tents near the border. A smaller group of Central American migrants are now living in a new shelter space in a Tijuana neighborhood. Thousands of migrants removed by bus over the weekend from the Benito Juarez sports facility that had become unsanitary after rains turned it into a swamp where lice and illness spread. PBS reporter Jean Guerrero visited the new shelter and joins me now with an update hygiene. Hi Jade. What can you tell us about the new shelter and why migrants were moved there so the previous facility had become very overcrowded. And there were some complaints from the community about the noise and the chaos associated with it. So they moved them to this new. It's an abandoned concert hall called it about it. And it's much more spacious. It has room for 7500 people currently has about 24 hundred there. So there's more than enough room at this wine and lots of bathrooms there the large parking area where people can bring donations. There some indoor areas where women and children can find shelter from the rain. The disadvantage is that it's far away from the port of entry. So it's about 30 at the 30 minute drive east from the port of entry. And for people who want to ask for asylum in the U.S. they have to put their names in this tattered notebook and wait their turn which can be weeks sometimes months and they are too far to go check in on a regular basis to see if it's their turn. So there's a lot of people confused about that. And you talked to migrants at the new facility what was your sense about the mood of members of the caravan now. There's a lot of confusion about how the process for asylum works and whether or not The Notebook is the official way that they can get asylum and how they're going to get there. These people don't have money so they can't pay for buses. One shelter coordinator told me that officials will have a process soon and they'll inform people when it's their turn. But that hasn't been organized yet. And there's also a lot of complaints. One thing that struck me people are complaining about the lack of privacy at this shelter which is a complaint that they had at the last shelter to basically during media hours. Journalists can come in and pretty much point their cameras wherever they want completely unsupervised. And this has made a lot of the women and children uncomfortable while they're showering. You know breastfeeding just trying to spend time together it makes them feel very violated. One woman was telling me you know we're not actors we're humans. And she was crying actually because she was so disturbed by the constant barrage of people just coming through and and staring at them. And there are apparently thousands fewer people living in this new shelter than there were in the Benito Juarez shelter. Do you know where the missing people are hundreds of people stayed outside of the old shelter. They've refused to go to this shelter because this new one because it's so far away and hundreds more have signed up to go back to Central America through the International Organization for Migration. They didn't realize it was going to be so hard to get into the U.S. And so about 300 people have signed up to go home. Another 400 have already gone home through the International Organization for Migration. And then there's also an arm of the Mexican immigration agency that is taking hundreds of people home as well. And another march was reportedly planned for last Saturday during the New Mexican president's inauguration and it didn't happen. You're seeing evidence that the caravan is being manipulated. Tell us about that. Right. So there were flyers being handed out by this group called the BAMN by Stanford by any means necessary. It's a militant left wing group that's based in Berkeley and they were trying to basically inspire everybody to march and to storm the border again. And that created a lot of concerns for where was seem from that which is a migrant advocacy group that's been trying to help members of the caravan and so the Rasim front that ass and other human rights groups went down to try to counter these efforts by Bam told them do not march. It's just going to lead to more violence that potential tear gas situation don't do it. And so they actually succeeded in getting them to not do this March. And what can you tell us about the caravan and how that's affecting the economies of San Diego and Tijuana there because of the previous border closure that we saw. In association with this caravan. We have Tijuana city officials saying that Tijuana has lost millions of dollars. California's governor elect saying that there was a five point three million dollar loss for San Diego. And so that was just with the border closure. But business owners in Tijuana say that people are from San Diego are going into Tijuana less and less or less. There are less people going to the restaurants to go shopping. And it's because people are trying to limit their movement across the border out of fear and anxiety tied to the last border closure that we saw and people just fearing that that might happen again. I've been speaking with PBS border reporter Jean Guerrero. Jean, thank you. Thank you.

The city government of Tijuana announced Saturday that it has closed down a migrant shelter at a sports complex close to the U.S. border that once held about 6,000 Central Americans who hope to get into the U.S.

Officials said all the migrants were being moved to a former concert venue much farther from the border. The city said in a statement the sports complex shelter was closed because of "bad sanitary conditions."

Experts had expressed concerns about unsanitary conditions that had developed at the partly flooded sports complex, where the migrants had been packed into a space adequate for half their numbers. Mud, lice infestations and respiratory infections were rampant.

The remaining migrants were taken by bus to the new shelter about 10 miles from the border crossing at Otay Mesa and 14 miles from San Ysidro, near where people line up to file applications for asylum in the United States.

RELATED: Caravan Migrants Could Wait Up To Two Months To Apply For Asylum

Tijuana officials had said earlier that nobody would be forced to move to the new facility, a large building and concrete patio known as El Barretal that was used for concerts and other events until about six years ago. But they also warned they would stop offering food and medical services at the Benito Juarez sports complex.

The new shelter is being run by federal authorities.

Also Saturday, in one of his first acts in office, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador signed an agreement with his counterparts from three Central American countries to establish a development plan to stem the flow of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S.

The Foreign Ministry said the plan, which includes a fund to generate jobs in the region, aims to attack the structural causes of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Thousands of migrants, mostly Hondurans, have joined caravans in recent weeks in an effort to speed across Mexico to request refuge at the U.S. border.

Dozens of migrants interviewed by The Associated Press have said they are fleeing poverty and violence in their countries of origin.