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100 migrants seek U.S. asylum with indefinite hunger strike at Tijuana shelter

Their plea is for the United States to approve their pending asylum requests

Migrantes en ayuno
Migrantes | EFE

August 9, 2023 9:19am

Updated: August 9, 2023 9:19am

A hundred migrants of various nationalities, currently sheltered in the border city of Tijuana, have embarked on an indefinite hunger strike starting this Monday. Their plea is for the United States to approve their pending asylum requests. Most of them have been in limbo for over three months while waiting for a response.

Pastor Albert Rivera Cólon, who runs the Ágape Misión Mundial shelter explained that the idea for the hunger strike came from the migrants themselves. They don't want to sneak across the border without permission because it's dangerous. Instead, they're hoping that God will help them get what they need, he told newswire service EFE.

"The migrants are taking turns fasting and praying, asking God to help with the problem caused by the courts. We've had trouble with judges, and for more than ten days, we haven't been given any appointments. That doesn't seem fair," Rivera said.

On Monday, the migrants gathered in the shelter's church. Each person talked about their problems and why they were going on a fasting strike. During this meeting, one woman, holding her child, started crying, but these were happy tears. She found out that she finally got an appointment. This was the first appointment anyone had received in more than ten days, and it came just as they were starting the hunger strike. Everyone saw it as a special blessing from God.

Mayra Noemí López, from Honduras, was the lucky one to get the appointment. She had been running away from a dangerous group called Mara Salvatrucha. She told EFE that she had been thinking about fasting for a while, to get closer to God. She was about to start fasting the next day when she got the appointment. She felt really surprised and grateful.

The shelter is more than 20 kilometers away from the main border crossing point at San Ysidro. About 500 migrants live there, and around 100 of them have decided to go on a hunger strike. They're frustrated because they can't get appointments to talk about their asylum requests. This situation has been making them sad and worried.

"Many migrants see on social media that some people are saying they should cross the border without permission. They hear stories about people who crossed and were allowed to stay in the U.S. This makes them want to try too," Rivera explained.

Some Mexicans are also joining the hunger strike. They want to ask for asylum in the U.S. too. They had to leave Mexico because of violence, and they want to be with their families who are in the United States.

Erika Armenta, from Guerrero, Mexico, said she left her town because her family was kidnapped, and three of her brothers have been missing for nine years. "Fasting is also a way to get closer to God. We usually ask God for help, but we don't often do something hard for Him. These three months have felt really long, so we're trying this," Armenta said.

Jesús Torres Valdovinos, from Michoacán, added, "Fasting is a way to show God that we're serious about our requests. He says if we ask, He'll answer. We're asking Him to let us be with our families. My wife's brothers were killed, and she was threatened. She went to the U.S., so we're asking for permission to be with her.