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Stuck south of the border: Migrants in Mexico wait for their asylum appointments

“I pray every day my appointment will be there," a migrant mother staying in a Nogales, Mexico shelter said.
Posted: 12:59 PM, May 16, 2024
Updated: 2024-05-16 21:40:26-04
Migrant shelter

NOGALES, Mexico (KGUN) — Nogales, Mexico is a bustling border city, home to over 250,000 people.

But hundreds living here are migrants, and they hope their futures are on the other side of the wall.

Inside the shelter walls at the Kino Border Initiative's migrant aid center, it’s lunchtime.

Lunch
Migrants line up for lunch at the KBI Migrant Aid Center

While grateful for the warm meal, it’s one all of the migrants hope they soon will be able to skip.

Everyone here has been trying to use a U.S. government app called 'CBP One' to get an asylum appointment at the Nogales Port of Entry.

One mother from Mexico has been trying for four months to get an appointment with no luck.

Migrant Mother
One migrant mother has been at the shelter for four months

“I pray every day my appointment will be there," She said. "That suddenly I will be at my destination."

Pedro De Velasco is the director of education and advocacy at the Kino Border Initiative.

“70% of those appointments are allocated randomly," De Velasco said. "So it’s like winning the lottery.”

Pedro De Velasco
Pedro De Velasco

He says the Nogales Port of Entry is the only one in Arizona offering asylum appointments, and there’s 100 of them a day.

“Of course that doesn’t match the need. So people are here stuck," he said.

As the migrants in Mexico are stuck waiting to get into the U.S. the legal way, a group of men illegally crosses the border near Sasabe, Ariz.

Border Crossers
A group of men cross the border illegally near Sasabe, Arizona.

Even though they have illegally entered the country, they are still allowed to make an asylum claim according to U.S. immigration law.

They head toward a desert encampment run by humanitarian volunteers. At the camp, two men from Africa there say they know about the app, but they had to get to the U.S. as soon as possible.

“You need to have money to stay in Mexico, and my money was going down," Yasser Eltajani said. "So I have no choice, and I take a risk.”

Migrants at camp
Two African migrants wait for Border Patrol at a camp near Sasabe, Arizona.

The risk has paid off for now, as the migrants wait safely in the U.S. for Border Patrol to apprehend them.

But back in Mexico, the migrants at the shelter are still waiting to win the asylum lottery.

“I fear my children will be taken from me. I want to give my children many hopes. I feel like we are going to be better," the migrant mother said.

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Adam Klepp is a reporter for KGUN 9. At his previous station in Yuma, Adam focused on a range of local issues including the border, water rights and healthcare. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan, and attended both Loyola University Chicago and Syracuse University. Share your story ideas and important issues with Adam by emailing adam.klepp@kgun9.com or by connecting on Twitter.