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'We all deserve an opportunity' | Refugees waiting in Tijuana say asylum process is unfair

"Many are going to cross illegally because they wait a lot of time and nothing is happening," said Pastor Gustavo Banda.

TIJUANA, Baja California — Thousands of Ukrainian refugees have been allowed to cross our border on what's known as humanitarian parole.

But, an estimated 20,000 refugees from Central America, Haiti, and other regions are still waiting in Mexico as they seek asylum.

CBS 8 visited a shelter not far from the San Ysidro Port of Entry that houses some of those refugees.

Rows of tents cover the floor inside the shelter. Families cram together for meals and socialize with each other where they can. For the open space that's left, children play with toys and each other.

In Spanish, Violette Marcelus said, “I want to go to the United States.”

The 28-year-old left her native Haiti in 2009 saying conditions there were difficult. Since then, she's lived in Venezuela and Brazil. She arrived in Mexico seven months ago in hopes of seeking asylum in the United States, not knowing just how long it would take.

“I want a better life for my kids,” she said.

A pandemic border policy known as Title 42 has put her legal right to apply for asylum on hold. Ukrainian refugees are the exception. They've been allowed in under humanitarian parole, which supporters say is necessary since their country is at war.

But, one man, who did not want to be identified, argues he and others are escaping violence too, and they feel discriminated against.

The shelter where he and Marcelus live houses just a fraction of the estimated 20,000 asylum seekers living Tijuana, with more expected when Title 42 expires next month. Of the nearly two dozen shelters in Tijuana, all are full, including the largest one, which houses 1100 people.

It's called Cuidad de Dios, or City of God.

What started as a temporary shelter inside a church has evolved into a small village with more shelters being built. Luis Guillermo Vides and his family have been here for 11 months.

“We all deserve an opportunity,” he said.

Elsewhere on the property, and do laundry by hand. A maze of beds make up the living quarters. Everyone living there is trying to make the temporary shelter into a home.

Director, Pastor Gustavo Banda says, while it's ok for now, when it comes to starting a new life, it’s not sustainable. "They wait too much time in here. It's not fair," said Banda. Are they sad? Are they frustrated?

Many are going to cross illegally because they wait a lot of time and nothing is happening."

The Secretary of Homeland Security, Alexander Mayorkas says more agents are being sent to the border to process asylum claims after Title 42 ends, but immigration rights activists worry that won't make a difference.

WATCH RELATED: 1,000+ Ukrainians waiting for asylum in makeshift camp at U.S./Mexico border (April 2022).


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