TIJUANA (Border Report) — Tired of living in fear and worried about being assaulted, robbed or kidnapped, migrants staying at the Agape Shelter in Tijuana have organized security patrols, taking turns watching the shelter and its doors day and night, seven days a week.
The shelter is one of the biggest in Northern Baja California state, with about 600 migrants staying there, most of whom are from the Mexican states of Guerrero and Michoacan.
Laura Tejeda, a migrant staying at the shelter, said the patrols began after they noticed more and more strangers lurking in and around the facility.
“A woman came into our room and she wanted to know where we were from, if we had any children, but she was never interested in talking about asylum or how to get it, which seemed odd,” Tejeda said in Spanish. “We asked her for her name, if she had any children, but all she would say is that she was from El Salvador, she just wanted to get information.”
Tejeda says fear and insecurity have worsened since the weekend of violence in Tijuana on Aug. 12, when a cartel set fire to dozens of cars and committed other acts of vandalism and looting throughout Northern Baja California.
Tejeda says they feel more vulnerable than ever.
She gladly takes on two to three-hour shifts with other migrants watching the shelter.
“We have men and women taking turns to watch the doors, the women work a couple of hours at a time, but the men take longer shifts and stay up till dawn.”
Araceli, who fled Michoacan, says the patrols are needed as they are living in constant fear.
“I came to this shelter seeking safety and now feel like I did before we got here,” said Araceli. “Before we got here we didn’t sleep out of fear, now we feel like we did then constantly watching our children … we fear that at any moment someone will come in and take our children, especially our young daughters.”
The man who runs the shelter, Albert Rivera, told Border Report the migrant patrols have unfortunately become necessary as he doesn’t have enough money to hire a security firm to work at the shelter all the time.
“My concern is smugglers,” he said. “They keep coming in, we had one person pretending to be a customs officer but he was just a smuggler.”
Rivera added he has asked local, state and federal officials to provide more safety and security at all shelters, not just his.
He claims the National Guard has promised to send more patrols to watch the shelter, but he doesn’t know when the cavalry will arrive.
In the meantime, Tejeda and the others will have to carry on with their volunteer security patrols.
“Right now we can’t even go out to the store anymore,” she said.