This week I traveled from Los Angeles to Tijuana, Mexico, to see firsthand the immigration crisis on the border. It really is a global migration catastrophe.
Tijuana is the 6th-largest city in Mexico and center of the 6th-largest metro area in Mexico. It is also the largest city of both Baja California State and the Baja Peninsula, part of the San Diego-Tijuana transborder urban agglomeration and the larger Southern California megalopolis. Currently Tijuana is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in Mexico and as of 2015, the city of Tijuana had a population of 1,641,570.
After 9/11, tightening border control created more jobs and Tijuana’s population grew fast. Additionally, overly populated Mexico City and the devastating 2017 earthquake caused many to leave the city and settle in Tijuana. Some say that today Tijuana’s population reaches 3 million.
I accompanied Bishop Juan Carlos Mendez, who started Churches in Action, a Christian institution in Los Angeles, California, Pastor J. Edgar Boyd, senior minister/CEO/Chairman of the Board, of First AME Church of Los Angeles, and a group of three compassionate Jewish students.
A drive across the busy US Mexico border has brought me to see, firsthand, and try comprehend the refugee crisis, a global dilemma that is ready to burst. What I witnessed and my conclusion of this trip should resonate globally.
The Immigration Ping-Pong System
The essence of the trip was to visit refugee shelters that faith based communities – the Baptist Diocese, Catholic and Pentecostal churches – are performing a labor of love to shelter and feed these people. Additionally, here is information to help understand President Trump’s claim that the United States has an illegal immigration crisis. An out-of-control number of people cross the country’s southern border and disappear inland. A much larger number of people enter the United States illegally and are apprehended. That number has been growing exponentially.
Most of the refugees I met, from Central-Latin America countries, Haiti, Cuba, and as far as Cameroon in central Africa, want to enter the United States even if their American dream does not match the reality of life in the USA. People from 57 countries languish in Mexico waiting for a number that will permit them to enter the United States and start a new life there. Many have taken an incomprehensible journey. Sometimes their journey could take several months, to arrive at the border between Mexico and the USA.
The journey is becoming increasingly more difficult because the passage countries are tightening their borders, as they cannot facilitate the flow of refugees and others coming through their lands.
However, the circumstance and agreements between Mexico and the US now afford the refugees to do menial jobs in Mexico so they can gain some pride and self-esteem, while waiting for the hopeful grant to enter the USA.
Haitians who arrived in Tijuana and were not able to enter the USA have created some 3,000 productive community. They have now integrated into life in Mexico.
Those who arrived in Mexico apply at the border for an entry to the USA, mostly, based on an asylum or humanitarian status case. After initiating the application the person is given a ‘number’ and has to wait his or her turn in Mexico, often for several months to appear in front of a US judge on US soil. In all likelihood, the person will not be treated fairly in Mexico since the country does not have the means to deal with this invasion of foreign people. In almost all cases the person’s entry application is rejected at least three times. In between each appearance in front of a US judge there is a several month interval, some say with the hope that the person will give up and return to his or her country.
In Mexico the would-be refugees are living in makeshift shelters, much concealed from the authorities for which church organizations provide the people with their bare minimum needs while their children are not schooled. Anytime a person is wandering in the street, the church is called to shelter him or her. The refugee parents I met appeared to be sad and worried, but the kids were playful and happy.
People should not be escaping their homes and countries. People need a place where they can be safe; where they eat and sleep, can be informed and plan their next move. That is what the shelters offer.
But Mexico does not want the refugees and refugee shelters so the magnet to arrive in Mexico should end. The United States is pushing back. Both countries, Mexico and USA, want to deal only with law abiding legal immigration.
President Trump Is Not The Illegal Immigration Culprit
At the border, in the Tijuana beach area, I saw the ‘beautiful wall’ built by the Trump administration that replaced the old useless wall that was easy to climb over. The new smart metal wall is working, it is impenetrable.
For decades, with very loose immigration laws that were hardly imposed, the United States became the beacon of hope, the light of Venus to many, and the last bastion of hope on earth, thus the flow of refugees from all over the world.
The illegal immigration did not start with President Trump, he is not the cause of the problem nor the brunt. He only opened the dialogue on the situation and directed attention to a phenomenon that has been going on for decades, ignored by several previous US administrations. In fact this President has brought to focus and opened the eyes of many to the illegal migration and growing refugee problem.
Mr. Trump’s three year presidency did not cause the USA to have a 12 million, and some say 20 million illegal population on its soil.
But President Trump is right in calling it a crisis. It is also a money hauler, a political tool of hopeless hope. He was ahead of everyone to recognize the obvious, intractable illegal immigration bubble ready to burst.
A Crisis With No End In Sight
All that is now being done is putting a Band-Aid on an infected wound that only deepens.
The refugee issue is not an American problem. The same situation is replicated in Europe and in South America. Eighty million refugees worldwide is a global problem.
It appears that the world’s poor leadership do not want to solve the problem because if they did, it would have been solved already. Has the world’s leadership let down the world’s 7 billion people, less 350 million USA population, down? And when politicians will not step in to do good, faith enters to save, at least, the day.
The refugee problem is a moral crisis. It is exploding worldwide. Money will not solve the problem. A global effort is required to mend a broken system, the global humanitarian crisis.
Here Is Where OZ Comes Forth
The moral decay in the entire world’s society is becoming obvious fast.
OZ understands that the refugee issue is arguably one of the major moral issues of our time demanding their plight to be seen not solely in terms of national security, cultural identity, or economic impact but first and foremost in terms of human morality.
OZ, a coalition of moral, faith-based, civic and professional organizations communities is helping Latin American Refugees and supporting aid organizations and hosting countries.
OZ is aware that having to juggle the competing demands of security, the economy, and the responsibility to control their borders, most governments are compelled to increase entry barriers and even force refugees from their territories.
OZ also understands that the refugee’s real claim, is not about free movement, entry, and membership, but about putting an end to suffering. Moving from one country to another is simply moving the problem. It is a wound that will never heal and will get worse.
The Question Is What Can Be Done?
Oz is not looking at settling the refugees in a country. OZ’s work is to marshal all resources for the refugees to be absorbed in other countries without the country suffering in the process. OZ will task to organize all the systems, of all operations’ levels, concerned about the next generation to offer education so eventually the young generation can go back to their parents’ homeland and rebuild the country. OZ wants to use its leverage to help create new communities and it all starts with education. Relying on faith communities to push them to use all their clout with leaders and also go to the wells of funds and build the necessary structure.
Using the United States as leverage, OZ will mobilize all of Latin America’s countries into the right actions. If not, this refugees’ situation is like a dam with holes temporarily blocked and soon enough the dam will burst. Not solving the problem is not the answer. Rather organize, mobilize and solve it is the answer.
It is becoming apparent that Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the current president of Mexico, is working hard to turn Mexico into a Venezuela on the USA’s southern border. Venezuela is a government failure that has become a human catastrophe situation with over 5 million Venezuelan refugees roaming all over Latin America.
Mexico is seeking to close all the migrant shelters in order the end the attraction to arrive in Mexico. They want to end the lingering problem of refugees and illegal migrants.
Until the darkness starts dissipating, the work of Churches In Action Community Organization is to bring pastors together, mobilize cities and officials, educate constituents and help people to be informed. It is a most valuable contribution.
No matter what the politicians and organizations do the faith community has been there, is there and will always be there to throw a rope so people do not drown.
Author disclaimer: The political ineptness and the astonishing dysfunctional global leadership has put the world in a disarray. It is time to seek solutions not more first-aid bandages.
The governments of the entire world and the United Nations Organization have failed the people. The United States is the last beacon of hope, and alongside with it marches the state of Israel. Israel is internationally known for its humanitarian aid. If these two countries fail, the world will be dragged into a chaos that will be immense.
This global migration catastrophe of migrating refugees is a moral crisis that must be solved. Congress must not kick this can down the road, as they have been doing.