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Priest serving migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border reflects on what has changed

The courtyard of the Casa del Migrante en Tijuana, a migrant shelter in Tijuana, Mexico is show in this undated photograph.
Courtesy of Casa del Migrante en Tijuana
Casa del Migrante en Tijuana
The courtyard of the Casa del Migrante en Tijuana shelter is show in this undated photograph.

Casa del Migrante director talks about the death of Father José Guadalupe Rivas Saldaña, who ran a migrant shelter in Tecate.

In Tecate, in Baja California, a Catholic priest who ran a local migrant shelter was found dead on May 17. Father José Guadalupe Rivas Saldaña had been reported missing two days earlier. The Archdiocese of Tijuana said the priest had head injuries and his death was a suspected murder. To date, no arrests have been made.

Rivas was pastor of Saint Jude Thaddeus Parish in Tecate. He also ran Casa del Migrante de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, a shelter serving migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Father Pat Murphy is director of Casa del Migrante en Tijuana, which has been serving migrants in the region for 35 years. Murphy said the nature of the job can be hazardous.


"It could be dangerous. I always keep one eye in the back of my head, looking over my shoulder, making sure no one is following me. You live with a little paranoia, but it's OK," he said.

Murphy said the migrants the shelter served were often themselves victims of violence, and noted how the pandemic has changed the kinds of people seeking assistance.

"For many years, we were working with mostly deported men," Murphy said. "When the pandemic hit, we had to change the way of doing things because more and more families kept arriving," he added. "So, today, we are working primarily with families who are escaping violence trying to ask for asylum."

Murphy joined Midday Edition Thursday to talk about the loss of Father José, as well as the major impact that the federal immigration policy Title 42 is having on the people served.

"Basically the border is closed if you don't have a visa. They're not even going to hear your application for asylum. So this has left thousands of people staying in Tijuana. Most of the shelters are full.," Murphy said.


"But, for a lot of people, there is no hope to give them. You know, I get about about 15 Facebook messages a day asking if there's political asylum. It gets to be very painful to keep saying no, no, no. I look forward to the day when I can say" Yes, there's hope, you can go apply for asylum," he said.