Inside Casa del Migrante, a shelter in Ciudad Juarez, asylum-seekers from Guatemala, Cuba, Brazil and some from as far away as Uzbekistan waited this week for their numbers to be called. Men played basketball. Others huddled, looking for sunshine as the afternoon grew colder.
The waiting has put Mateo Mejia Hernandez, 30, who traveled from Guatemala with his 9-year-old daughter, Darleen, in a tough spot. He has a construction job lined up in the U.S., where they have relatives.
“We had hoped we’d be in Tennessee for Christmas,” Mejia Hernandez said. He said the two left after gang members demanded extortion payments from them. Darleen said a gang member had touched her inappropriately and slammed her head into a wall. She had a large bruise on the right side of her forehead.
Mejia Hernandez initially thought about heading for Tijuana, but given the backlash against immigrants there by some Mexicans and the tear-gassing of some migrants by U.S. authorities as they tried to climb border fences, he settled on Ciudad Juarez, hoping he would have easier access to his final destination. But now they just wait, with the number 1939 written on his forearm with a marker.
“We’ll probably be here for a while,” he lamented, “and with everything you hear about Ciudad Juarez, this is scary.”
He was referring to Mexico’s drug war, in which more than 240,000 people have been killed.
“The last thing I want for my daughter and me is to be victims of crime here,” he said, hugging her tightly.
At the shelter, Rosa Maria Parra, one of the coordinators, said organized crime is always a concern. “Every day we ask God to bless our migrants, to protect them from the reach of bad people,” she said. “So far, so good. But that’s our daily worry.”
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