In the last 10-months, more than 3,000 Haitian refugees have entered the U.S. through Southern California border crossings.
According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), 3508 Haitians have crossed through port of entry located in San Ysidro, Otay Mesa, Tecate, Calexico East and West and Andrade.
Many of those refugees have ended up in Tijuana, where in recent days, hundreds have gathered at shelters waiting to cross through San Ysidro.
Mexico allows a 30 day grace period to stay in the country, but it’s gotten so crowded that local officials have resorted to passing out numbers for the right to get into another line.
According to an immigration attorney, right now, there are more than 1,000 people in Tijuana waiting to seek asylum. The port of entry can only process about 100 cases a day, so they are backlogged for 7-10 days.
The refugees will eventually meet with CBP officials to explain their reasons for seeking asylum.
If they make it into the U.S., they are then monitored by ICE officials. Some of the refugees will be monitored via GPS and ankle bracelets.
Enrique Morones with the humanitarian group Border Angels says he’s taken food to the refugees in Tijuana.
“What we’ve been doing is bringing food to the shelters where they’re staying at. We’re talking about thousands of people in Tijuana. It’s a new community, but it’s the same desperation,” said Morones.
While immigration experts say they’re not exactly sure why so many Haitians are making their way to the U.S., Morones has a theory.
“Most of them went down to Brazil to work for the Olympics. The Olympics are over and they have no more work, so now they’re working their way up to the United States, because in Mexico, you get a 30-day pass to cross into the country,” said Morones.
But even if the refugees make it into the U.S., it’s still a long journey to stay here.
Immigration attorney Lilia Velasquez says immigration courts are facing a huge backlog of cases and it could be months before these cases will go before a judge.
“As difficult it is for our system to welcome them and hear their stories, to see if we can protect them and let them stay, we need to do it. It’s the law,” said Velasquez.