Resilience Refugees

New shelter makes immigrating to the U.S. a little easier

immigration tijuana immigrants migrants border US Mexico homeland security honduras guatemala central america wall policy rights support

Story at a glance

  • The Carmen Serdán Migrant Integration Center opened on Dec. 6 with the goal of supporting immigrants applying for U.S. asylum.
  • With almost 12,000 immigrants awaiting court outcomes, the center provides a range of legal and social support.
  • The primary focus of the center is to help immigrants find work while they wait for their U.S. court dates.

A federal border shelter capable of housing 3,000 immigrants awaiting entry into the United States has opened in Tijuana. 

The Carmen Serdán Migrant Integration Center (CIM), named after the Mexican revolutionary María Carmen Serdán, was established with support from Mexico’s Office of Federal Welfare to provide services to people pursuing immigration to the U.S. 

The population CIM specifically aims to help is asylum seekers displaced by the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), colloquially referred to as the “Remain in Mexico” policy. 

The MPP states that select “foreign individuals entering or seeking admission to the U.S. from Mexico – illegally or without proper documentation – may be returned to Mexico and wait outside of the U.S. for the duration of their immigration proceedings.” 

The policy was introduced in December 2018 and implemented in January 2019 by former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. 

Bureaucratic backlog and policy confusion make the path to obtaining asylum lengthy, lasting from several months to a year. For immigrants awaiting a verdict on their status, the relocation can also be dangerous; high rates of murder, abductions, and sexual violence are reported along these northern Mexican border zones, per the Latin America Working Group

Among the critiques of the policy is that it does not just apply to Mexican immigrants, but all immigrants from Central America. The majority of the immigrants currently assisted by the CIM are from Honduras. Reports state that 11,600 Central American migrants were returned to Mexico from the U.S. and are currently waiting on their immigration status in northern Mexico. 

Mexico’s secretary of federal employment, Horacio Duarte Olivares, describes the new center as a resource, saying, “It is not a hostel in the strict sense, but offers accommodation, health care, legal support, and the opportunity to find a job.” He further states that the main purpose of the center is to help migrants find work in local labor markets while they wait for their appointments in U.S. courts. 

In the meantime, the CIM will provide food, lodging, employment opportunities and legal aid to asylum seekers, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune

The CIM is the latest support facility to open in Northern Mexico, with another operating in Ciudad Juárez and two more in development. The sibling center in Juárez has helped more than 7,000 migrants

The facility currently houses 12 migrants. The Carmen Serdán Migrant Integration Center opened last week on Dec. 6, welcoming seven migrants from Honduras and Ecuador. And while the CIM is mainly intended to support immigrants caught in the MPP processes, the facility is open to providing aid to other populations if needed.