Central American Migrants Continue To Arrive In Tijuana By The Hundreds
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Now to Tijuana, where Central American migrants continue to arrive by the hundreds. Less than two weeks before Mexico's new president takes charge, officials with his incoming government say they're rattled by the U.S. response to the migrant caravan at the border the two countries share.
From member station KQED, Farida Jhabvala Romero reports.
FARIDA JHABVALA ROMERO, BYLINE: For the past six weeks, Styves Sama has been coming every day to El Chaparral border crossing in Tijuana and waited anxiously for his number, 1,119, to be called.
STYVES SAMA: It's a little bit disturbing because spending all this money from Africa to be here. And to spend this money again to be here for six weeks - I have to eat. It's not easy.
ROMERO: So all your savings are gone, basically.
SAMA: I have nothing left with me.
ROMERO: Sama's 36. He wants to ask the U.S. for asylum. He used to work as a crane operator in his native Cameroon. But he says his government arrested and tortured him.
SAMA: I'm not going to America because I'm looking for a job. Of course I'm looking for a better life. I'm going to America because my life is in danger. So that's the most important part of it first.
ROMERO: Among the crowd, many say they've also waited a month and a half for a chance to see a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Spanish).
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Maxim Chicalo.
ROMERO: Volunteers at the border call out 40 names this morning - people whose turn had come to ask for asylum. Wait times could grow with the arrival of the caravan. The list of people waiting already has 4,200 names. The man who will soon head Mexico's national immigration agency says he'll push the U.S. to process migrants more quickly to reduce the bottleneck at ports of entry.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
TONATIUH GUILLEN LOPEZ: (Speaking Spanish).
ROMERO: At a press conference in Tijuana, Tonatiuh Guillen Lopez says barbed wire, barriers and soldiers don't belong at the busy international crossing with San Diego, a region with a long history of cooperation.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
LOPEZ: (Speaking Spanish).
ROMERO: "It looks like we're at the border between North and South Korea," he says. At a crowded sports complex-turned-migrant shelter, thousands of Central American migrants with the caravan mill around. Dozens more are arriving with wary faces and dusty bags. Volunteers handout clothes to a crowd of women and children. Maria Oriana’s 4-year-old grandson clutches her leg.
MARIA ORIANA: (Speaking Spanish).
ROMERO: "The situation is not easy," she says. The long journey from Honduras was especially tough for the boy. And now she realizes it could be months before she can ask for refuge in the U.S. For NPR News, I'm Farida Jhabvala Romero in Tijuana.
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