Mexico – Fr Novoa Leyva on caravan of migrants heading to Tijuana: "They are people in a special situation"

15 November 2018

(ANS - Tijuana) - The Salesian Fr Agustín Novoa Leyva is responsible for the "Tijuana Salesian Project". In this interview he offers, without prejudice or bias, a view on the arrival and reception of the caravan of migrants now reaching the border between Mexico and the United States. To remember that migrants are, first of all, people.

Are you responsible for a reception center?

Yes, I am the Director of the Salesian Refuge of Tijuana and we have an ordinary center and we have been able to open other emergency shelters. As you know, this phenomenon of the caravan is very special: about 500 people have already arrived and we want to offer them a dignified service.

In the next few days, these 500 migrants will perhaps become thousands. How are you preparing?

We are doing everything we can. From the moment these people entered Mexico we started to prepare. But in these situations it is very difficult to foresee everything because unlike the other cities that they were in transit, here the path of the caravan to the United States cannot proceed beyond three months, according to the latest US laws.

For how many days do you have enough food supplies?

I cannot say precisely, but the institutions and the Church have launched an appeal for solidarity and in our case every day we offer over 800 breakfasts to people in street situations and to migrants. In this case, however, we should be offering all three meals per day. Some time ago we had a similar situation with the massive arrival of Haitians and thank God we did not run out of food.

How many Haitians are still in Tijuana?

There are about 3,000 who have remained. They are regularizing their situation and have integrated well into the city.

How will you be able to serve the people you serve routinely and this new group coming?

This morning we have already offered around 1,200 breakfasts and we are preparing to continue at that pace. We already have about 200 volunteers. We have supplies for about four weeks and we have asked the institutions for help to continue our services. We are asking for any kind of help from the government, but they have never done it before and I think it will be the same now.

What are the possible scenarios for this phenomenon?

Every phenomenon is very diverse ... The embassies of Guatemala and Honduras have offered the opportunity to obtain birth certificates and official documents that would allow migrants to do work, and in this way the city and the companies could help in some way, as has already been done with the Haitians.

Some say that migrants have had problems with the police.

There is a bit of everything. I do not like to generalize by saying that it is a caravan of “evildoers”. Migrants are people in a special situation. Perhaps they are experiencing their crises and we do not understand their reactions. There are people who when they arrived at the border wanted to climb the wall and there were situations of tension.

What do you think of the fact that since this caravan arrived in Mexico you have had many messages of contempt?

Yes, this situation of contempt is painful because, first of all, they are people, and we know that ours is a country of emigrants. Tijuana is a city that has always welcomed people; I hope it does not change in this case.



ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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