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Building a New Home: How Haitian Migrants Found Refuge in Mexico By: Tania thorne

"I was very afraid but I had no choice but to flee to another country," says Joveline Monfreuli, a Haitian migrant now residing in Tijuana, Baja California.

Migrants abandon their home countries for many reasons. Traveling by any means in search of a better future, many go as far as risking their own lives.

The city of Tijuana holds some of the largest transitory populations of migrants that are seeking a future in the U.S.

In 2016, over 17,000 Haitians reached the city of Tijuana after fleeing the continuous devastation in Haiti.

According to Monfreuli, "There is no work so then we had to go to Venezuela to be able to work and help our family."

Monfreuli adds, "I feel very bad about that because the children are the ones who suffer. In the jungle they had fevers and rashes from the bug bites."

"There are many people that traveled through the jungle. Some women got raped and some were murdered for their belongings or cellphones. I was scared," says Monfreuli as she recalls her journey through the jungle.

Monfreuli is just one of the many Haitian migrants that made the long journey to Tijuana and arrived to what is now known as Little Haiti.

Little Haiti is now the city with the most Haitian population in the entire world outside of Haiti, and is where many Haitians have decided to make a new home.

Pastor Gustavo Banda is the minister of the Amabassador's of Jesus Church and the founder of Little Haiti. Banda says, "This is a sanctuary for them. They know when they arrive they will be very well treated here."

According to Banda, "Some will decide to leave and some will stay. We are building homes for the ones who decide to stay."

This community founded by Pastor Banda has been in the works for the last two and a half years and is a labor of love he works on with his bare hands and sweat.

After a long journey, this community becomes a home for many.

Freuly Galan says, "I was born in Haiti. After Venezuela I went to Colombia. Then to Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and finally here to Mexico."

"There was no work in Haiti," Galan adds.

"I was born in Haiti. After Venezuela I went to Colombia. Then to Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and finally here to Mexico."

The lack of work, poverty, violence, and crime pushes families to look for a new home in a different country.

Pastor Banda says, "There are two types of people. The ones that want the American Dream and the ones who know that it isn't as easy as it's made to be."

According to Banda, "Now even their own families who are in the U.S. are telling them to not try it and are advising them to stay in Mexico. Many have prospered here."

But as the immigration laws in the U.S. are constantly changing, receiving asylum status is not an easy process.

Luis Macias Jr., an Attorney at Law in the city of San Diego says, "Asylum laws have become much stricter and much harsher in terms of the definition of what's persecution and what will fall under the guides of asylum."

"They've really narrowed the definition and really kind of closed the door on a lot of people," Macias adds.

While some are granted U.S. asylum, others settle and start a new life.

Joveline Monfreuli says, "If I secure services here, I think I will stay here. If we are able to get a job we can rent a house or room to be able to live in."

Pastor Banda says, "I want this canyon transformed and converted into a canyon completely for refugees. Our next project is to build a school for the children, a hospital, and workshops for jobs. "

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