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MEXICO: Salesian Missionaries Open New Reception Center for Haitian Migrants

(MissionNewswire) In order to provide better support and services to Haitian migrants, Salesian missionaries in Tijuana, Mexico have opened a reception center at the San Juan Bosco Oratory. The new reception center can accommodate up to 200 people and offers food, sleeping accommodations, and bathrooms and showers. The program also provides workshops, recreational and sporting activities and religious services.

Nearly a thousand migrants from Africa, Haiti, Central America and Mexico have reached the border city of Tijuana to seek political asylum in the United States. But immigration into the United States is a concern for many migrants. While they wait to receive a response to their request some are being helped by Salesian missionaries who maintain programs in Tijuana. At one time Salesian programs saw 25 to 30 people per day but since the influx of migration, 150 to 170 people a day are seeking services from the program.

The border between the United States and Mexico spans 1,969 miles and has more than 20 checkpoints along its route. Constant migration is taking place between the two countries with Mexican migrant workers traveling to U.S. border towns seeking employment and immigrants from both countries crossing back and forth. In addition, there are cases of undocumented Mexicans being repatriated.

Many border towns are plagued by crime and violence such as the illegal trafficking of drugs, weapons, money and people where the consequences of social and political tensions between the two nations are felt. Salesian missionaries have been working in Mexico and in these border towns for more than 25 years and have recently increased cooperation between the Salesian Province of Mexico-Guadalajara and the Province of USA West. The goal is to work together to address the increase of violence and insecurity in the region and launch proposals for education, social integration, drug prevention and combating the effects of organized crime.

“Since the middle of this year Tijuana has been transformed by the arrival of thousands of Haitian migrants, but things have not worked out well,” says Father Felipe Plascencia, rector of the Salesian House in Tijuana. “Hundreds of people arrive every day but the U.S. authorities allow only a few dozen of them to enter, leaving thousands of migrants stranded on the border. It is not clear how long this situation will last. A rough estimate is that it will take approximately 10 to 12 months. The reception center will remain in operation as long as this extraordinary situation persists.”

Currently, Salesian missionaries are serving more than 9,000 people in six Salesian oratories, a parish and a public dining hall which serves food to close to a thousand homeless and migrant people every day. The programs are facilitated by six Salesian missionaries with the help of volunteers, local collaborators and benefactors in both Mexico and the United States.

Before opening the new reception center, Fr. Plascencia and Father Francisco González, economer of the Mexico-Guadalajara Province, blessed the building. The event was attended by various officials representing the Mexican federal administration, and state and municipal authorities involved in the activities for migrants as well as volunteers and supporters of the oratory.

“Working hand in hand with and guided by the Salesians was a wonderful and miraculous experience,” said Carlos Mora Alvarez, president of the State Executive Council for the Care of Migrants located in Baja, Calif., at the event. “This center is being opened for the benefit of our migrant brothers, regardless of creed, race or skin color.”

In addition to working with migrant populations, Salesian missionaries in Mexico primarily direct their efforts toward the country’s at-risk youth, including girls and young mothers. Creating safe havens and improving educational opportunities are essential to deter youth from life on the streets where they are susceptible to drugs and gang violence.



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