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Migrant Influx Strains Resources Of Mexican Border Towns

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Biden has promised to improve the immigration process along the southern border. It's a complicated issue, and it's straining resources in Mexican border towns. Our co-host Steve Inskeep spoke with Tania Garcia. She's a lawyer at the shelter Espacio Migrante - or Migrant Space - in Tijuana.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

What is the geography of Tijuana for migrants trying to reach the United States? Are there particular tent cities and places that people go?

TANIA GARCIA: Well, we are actually the farthest west-north city in Mexico. But because of criminal organization, illegal activities and violence in the east coast of Mexico, that's one of the main reasons why they come to Tijuana.

INSKEEP: We've seen pictures of a kind of tent city right there on the border near the San Ysidro border crossing. What's that like?

GARCIA: Yes. Since the announcement of President Biden to terminate the MPP program, the Migrant Protection Protocol - so a lot of people thought the border was going to be open, and so they thought that they might go there and camp. And this happens since February 17, and it's been growing since then.

INSKEEP: This is people who get the impression they need to basically stand in line at the border crossing and, sooner or later, the gate's going to open. Is that what you're saying?

GARCIA: Yes. They thought, we might be getting on a line to cross the border. And so that's how the camp started. There are over 250 tents, like camp tents, and between 12- and 1,500 hundred people living there because of all the rumors, ridiculous things like the border is going to be open in midnight for 30 minutes and they are going to let 10 to 15 people or - things like this. But they're also...

INSKEEP: Oh, and this is completely fake, you're telling me. There's no basis for that at all.

GARCIA: No. No, there is no basis. And it's completely fake.

INSKEEP: Are new people arriving with the belief in their heads that the Biden administration will let them in more easily than the Trump administration would have?

GARCIA: Yeah. There is this conception that this is going to be a huge change, but actually, the immigration policies haven't changed at all. They are just restoring a human right, that is asylum, that were violated by the Trump administration, as forcing people to stay here and wait their process in Mexico.

INSKEEP: You're dealing with people who, in many cases, say they can't really return home, that they left because they felt they were in danger. Is staying in Mexico an option for them?

GARCIA: Well, for some of them, yes. And I actually tell them the difference between the process in the United States because it's a legal one that you have to go to court, and here in Mexico, it's more an administrative procedure. It's easier than in the United States because you don't have to be in front of a judge, and you don't need legal representation. And there are some that have actually changed their mind and said, like, OK, I would like to seek asylum here in Mexico. So - but most of them are actually hoping to be accepted in the U.S. But we know that this is going to be really hard. It's humanly impossible to help all people, but I can give them all this information, and they can take their own decisions here.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHALE FALL'S "THE APARTMENT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.