Stuck In Tijuana, Many Central American Migrants Opt For A Job
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Now to Tijuana, where it's been raining for two days. It's made a dismal situation even more miserable for the Central Americans camped out near the U.S. border. And yet even though the migrants entered Mexico illegally, the country is offering them jobs. More and more migrants are taking up the offer. NPR's David Welna reports.
(SOUNDBITE OF RAIN)
DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: At the edge of the mud-filled, roofless sports complex where some 6,000 Central American migrants shelter under tents and tarps, five men in underwear bathe under a stream of cold water. Waiting his turn is a 20-year-old Honduran named Josue Pinyeda. This camp may be full of sick and discouraged refugees, he says, but people still have their dreams.
JOSUE PINYEDA: (Speaking Spanish).
WELNA: Most people here dream of America, Pinyeda says. But if there's a chance to get a job here in Mexico, he's willing to take it.
GENARO LOPEZ: There's around 10,000 open jobs available in the maquiladora industry.
WELNA: That's Genaro Lopez, the alderman who represents this part of Tijuana. The assembly plants, known as maquiladoras, that surround the city, he says, are hurting for workers - a problem locals blame on low wages.
LOPEZ: Those are the factories that work for big names like Sony, Pioneer and stuff like that here in Tijuana - Panasonic, Samsung.
WELNA: In a large covered courtyard about a 20-minute walk from the migrant shelter, scores of scruffy looking men and women take numbers and line up for job interviews. This jobs fair was organized by federal and state officials. Nayla Rangel is the fair's coordinator. She says so far more than 2,000 migrants - nearly half the adults in the camp - have signed up for one-year humanitarian work visas.
NAYLA RANGEL: (Speaking Spanish).
WELNA: "We need human capital," she says. "The companies here keep asking for more workers. And we're short on what we can supply them with. These migrants and that demand," she says, "make a very good match."
RANGEL: (Speaking Spanish).
WELNA: Representing the maquiladora industry at the jobs fair is Esther Leyva Portillo. She says the companies she works with have 15,000 job openings.
ESTHER LEYVA PORTILLO: Maybe in the operations area - this is where they are looking more persons, employees.
WELNA: And you can't find Mexican workers to do that job?
PORTILLO: It's a little hard. It's a little hard. But they are looking all the options.
WELNA: On the street outside the jobs fair is a 42-year-old Honduran clutching a sheaf of papers. Rene Castillo is happy. He begins a new job at 7 o'clock the next morning at an assembly plant, where he'll get the equivalent of a 1.88 an hour.
RENE CASTILLO: (Speaking Spanish).
WELNA: "Thank God we've been given a chance to work here in Mexico," he says. I ask if he's given up on getting into the U.S.
CASTILLO: (Speaking Spanish).
WELNA: "No way am I giving up," he says. "I'm a positive person, and I'll just have to give it a little more time." Claudia Hernandez, a mother of four with another on the way, is another Honduran who's just landed a job. She says she likes Mexico.
CLAUDIA HERNANDEZ: (Speaking Spanish).
WELNA: But the goal is getting to the U.S., she says - adding it's what every Honduran dreams of. This jobs fair makes some here uneasy. Watching this parade of Central American job applicants is a 90-year-old Mexican. Roberto Sandoval thinks Mexico is doing the U.S. a big favor by giving these people jobs.
ROBERTO SANDOVAL: Oh, it's not good. Mexico should protect its own people, not these people that come from foreign countries.
WELNA: Whom to help - migrants or Mexicans? It's a dilemma the new government taking office here tomorrow will soon be facing. David Welna, NPR News, Tijuana, Mexico.
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