The aerial view of the Tijuana-San Ysidro border represents a stark reality for migrants hoping to seek asylum in the United States. On one side, a lively city hugs a wall that transcends the United States-Mexico border vanishing hundreds of yards into the Pacific Ocean. On the other, several miles of vacant land intertwined with dirt roads for U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents to patrol presents a deterrent to hopeful migrants. Looking out from their window at La Embajada Migrante (The Immigrants Embassy), separated only by a playground from the border wall in Playas de Tijuana, migrants are all too familiar with this view. They are repeatedly taunted by the sounds of nearby Blackhawk helicopters making their approach to the Naval Outlying Landing Field at Imperial Beach.
Tijuana is home to thousands of migrants whose lives are temporarily on hold while they wait for United States politicians to amend immigration policies put in place by the Trump Administration. Since the inauguration of Joe Biden, expectations of a substantial change in immigration policy have driven optimistic migrants to Mexico’s northern border. As the United States seemingly begins to relax many of its precautionary pandemic regulations, migrants see little progress in advancing their immigration cases. Title 42, an emergency regulation implemented by the CDC under Trump, was placed to halt immigration in aim of mitigating the spread of COVID-19. A growing population of Title 42 deportees are being sent back to Mexico without proper advocacy and are forced to endure a gruelingly long immigration feat.
Local NGOs in Tijuana provide shelter, amenities and basic medical care to accommodate migrants while they brave their waiting period. Throughout the various encampments and shelters, which are substantially occupied by children, life continues as normal as possible. Tucked inside the hills of Tijuana, Iglesia Embajadores de Jesus provides comfort to thousands of individuals and families. Beyond the façade of a classical church are rooms full of cots and rows of bunkbeds shared by the shelter’s residents. In the largest living area, a single light shines through the building’s roof filling the room with warmth as kids continue to play between their parents’ legs. Despite the glaring injustices faced by these individuals, a degree of hope concords the migrants in the Iglesia Embajadores de Jesus shelter and the many other shelters and encampments throughout Tijuana.