Migrants in Tijuana Know Trump Doesn’t Want Them. They Aren’t Giving Up.

Migrants in Tijuana Know Trump Doesn’t Want Them. They Aren’t Giving Up.

TIJUANA — Life in Tijuana’s largest migrant shelter has begun to take on the familiar rhythms and sounds of a Central American neighborhood: Early in the morning, adults rise and get ready to go to work. Children dress for school. Mothers gather huge bundles of dirty clothes for the day’s wash. Vendors hawk coffee.

“We are getting used to this life,” said Norma Pérez, 40, who left Honduras in a migrant caravan bound for the United States about two months ago with her 5-year-old son.

For weeks, they walked from Central America up to the Mexican border with the United States, fleeing poverty and violence. All along the way, President Trump described the migrants as a danger, as invaders trying to crash their way into the United States. But they didn’t stop their trek north.

When they arrived at the border, Tijuana was not ready for them. The conditions were deplorable, and the migrants were surprised they would not be able to apply for asylum right away. Twice, groups of migrants approached the border fence and were repelled by border patrol agents using tear gas and pepper spray.

Rodolfo Figueroa, an official with the National Immigration Institute, a government agency, said most of the migrants who arrived in Tijuana with the caravan and who applied for humanitarian visas have been approved. In total, 2,200 visas have been awarded in little over a month, he said. About 1,300 migrants have either been deported or voluntarily returned to their home countries, he added.

Early on a typical morning in the El Barretal shelter, migrants who already hold a temporary Mexican visa head to work at a nearby market as meat and poultry vendors. Others make their way to jobs as truck drivers, construction workers or laborers in the city’s electronics manufacturing plants.

The shelter’s manager, Leonardo Nery, said the number of people living there had dropped from 3,000 a month ago to around 1,000 as some migrants found their own living arrangements in town. Others have crossed over to the United States or returned home, he said.

Around 10 a.m., loudspeakers inside El Barretal announced that buses sent by the Mexican federal government had arrived to take anyone interested in Mexican humanitarian visas to an immigration office. The same voice reminded migrants to gather any trash and place it in the available cans.

Around noon on most days, English classes start inside a small white tent with bright blue carpets covering the concrete floor. Puzzle pieces are spread on tables, along with drawings and crayons. Posters with names of colors hang on the walls.

Darwin Bardales, an 18-year-old Honduran, has been working as a volunteer in the shelter’s English school.

“It feels good to do something for the others, especially the kids,” he said. “After all, we are all in the same vulnerable situation.”

The children usually take classes in English and Spanish, learning to read, to color and to eat healthy foods. This Friday, the classes got a late start: The arrival of donated teddy bears and piñatas had the children’s full attention until a female voice boomed from the loudspeaker.

“Hello everybody, it’s your teacher!” the voice said. “It’s time for class, kids!”

Adult migrants scattered around the camp cheered in response.

Food is cooked and distributed both by private aid groups and by Mexican marines twice a day — rice, soup and sandwiches. It is a bare-bones existence, but friendships have developed and at least one wedding took place in a downtown shelter.

Early on Friday, José Daniel Castro, 44, was already busy managing what has become the shelter’s corner shop, where he sells cigarettes, potato candy, soup and other basics around the clock.

Mr. Castro left Honduras in mid-October. Now he buys supplies in Tijuana every morning, and he earns about $20 a day reselling them — enough to buy his own food, he said. Having been deported from the United States three times, he plans to stay in Mexico indefinitely, working as a vendor, he said.

“I can work here and make a little money,” he said. “That is already more than I can say about back home. In the end, all we wanted was to work and help our loved ones back home.”

Taracio Pérez stood nearby holding bottles of soda, hoping for customers.

“We are fighting, and hustling,” said Mr. Pérez, who also scrubs floors in a downtown Tijuana restaurant. “The dream was and is the United States. But it has all become so difficult and dangerous for us that the best thing to do is work while we wait for things to get better.”

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