San Diego

Southern California Doctors Travel to Tijuana to Heal Migrants

The Central American migrants have been living in camps in unhealthy conditions

A group of Southern California doctors crossed the border into Tijuana on Saturday to treat members of the migrant caravan who are camping in overcrowded shelters.

About 20 medical professionals — doctors and medical students from UCLA and UC Irvine — traveled from the Los Angeles area to the border with medical supplies.

“We’ve been watching the pain and suffering on the news and just sitting there and feeling sorry for them isn’t enough. We have to do something,” said Margarita Loeza, a doctor at UCLA’s Providence St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica.

The group met in San Diego and traveled to Tijuana with local volunteers who were also delivering food and water to shelters.

The Central American migrants have been living in camps in unhealthy conditions.

“Not only have they been dealing with poor nutrition, which has led to a number of medical problems, but also they’ve suffered abuse from protesters in Tijuana throwing rocks,” said Phillip Canete, the organizer of the medical brigade.

Doctors say that a large number of migrants are also dealing with flu and foot problems from their long journey. Many are dealing with colds, cough and other infections because, being from Central America, the migrants have not acclimated to the colder climate here, Canete said.

The doctors set up the clinic Saturday and were hoping to meet with 50 patients a day and will likely return for follow up visits.

“We’re also immigrants,” Loeza said. “Our family migrated in different ways. They’re human beings and we want to help them. It’s the right thing to do.”

In effect, Mexican border towns are acting as waiting rooms for migrants hoping to start new lives in the U.S. due to bottlenecks at the border. President Donald Trump is calling on Mexico to stop the migrants from reaching the U.S. and is saying that all will stay in Mexico while their claims are processed. He even threatened to close the border. However, Mexico denied that is made a deal with the U.S. to hold asylum-seekers in the country.

For many of the migrant families, it may take months just to apply for asylum. That likely means that the doctors' mission to treat the migrants will be a long-term one.

Saturday’s visit was also to assess the migrants’ needs so that “the next time we come we come better equipped,” Loeza said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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