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Thousands of Honduran Migrants Arrive in Tijuana with Dreams for Asylum in the U.S. by: Jessica Cardenas

They traveled the excruciating 2,500 mile journey north to the U.S.-Mexico border. Men, women, and children found solidarity and strength in their numbers. The largest caravan of over 8,000 migrant in hopes of seeking asylum for the American Dream.

But just over three weeks ago, their destination turned into a nightmare as thousands of migrants face a crisis at the US-Mexico border. They arrived in Tijuana, a city already a host to thousands of asylum seekers waiting to cross legally into the U.S.

Many now face their new reality as thousands are stuck at the border city near the San Ysidro Port of Entry, the largest border crossing in the world.

Over 6,000 migrants were sheltered at the Benito Juarez Sports complex, just 500 feet of the border.

But migrants face uncertainty as the arrival of thousands of families seeking asylum in the U.S. have arrived in recent months. Many migrants have waited months in the hopes of getting across where overcrowded shelters are their only refuge at Tijuana's border city.

A shelter just about five miles from the border opens its doors to migrant women and children, many who have been here for weeks waiting for their chance to request asylum.

Since the arrival of the caravan, the shelter has tripled its size where many Central American women anxiously wait.

We will call this woman Maria to protect her identity. Like many other migrants, her dreams were born of nightmares.

"I came here because I no longer had the option to stay in my home country," says Maria. "One there is no work there and I feared for my life, for my children's life, for my husband's life."

Maria is fleeing gang violence from the murder capital of the world, San Pedro Sula, Honduras. She fled after gang members murdered her younger sister who was pregnant.

"They killed her. And ever since they killed her, it was been a tragedy for us because she was the youngest, and we never thought that this would happen to her," Maria says.

Her entire family was threatened they would be next.

“I would be dead today," she says. I had proof of the threats that came to my house."

In a blink of an eye, Marta took everything she could and fled Honduras with her two children.

“The first thing I grabbed was a backpack with diapers. Just that, and I fled," Maria says. "I left everything there. I didn't even have clothes for myself, only the ones I had on."

She was part of the thousands of migrants who made their way north to the border by foot, but her children couldn’t resist the harrowing journey.

“My daughter fell to the floor and told me 'Mommy my feet hurt so much. I cannot walk anymore.' "I would tell her that we were almost there, but we still had about 50 miles to go," Maria says.

Even after her three-year-old daughter contracted a fever and her 1-year-old son caught pneumonia, they kept walking.

Her husband traveled with the first caravan that took off two days after María left Honduras. The last time she heard from him was three weeks ago when he told her heartbreaking news about his journey.

"My husband told me that a woman whom he was traveling with had four children, and she was carrying a newborn baby," Maria says. "Her baby later died of heat exhaustion."

She hopes to be reunited with him in Tijuana while the waiting game for her chance to request asylum continues at this shelter.

"I have faith in God that he will be with me soon," Maria says.

But asylum seekers like Maria face a strained immigration system backlogged by the flow of migrant families arriving in recent months.

Immigration Attorney Narciso Cruz describes the current immigration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

"Here's the dilemma we are facing," says Cruz. "Unfortunately we have an immigration system that is not really adequately prepared to receive these people. What I mean by that is the processing of large groups of people coming into the port of entry, the government can't handle that right now."

Less than 100 claims are processed every day while an informal take a number system takes place that allows migrants to stay in shelters until their name is called. They come every morning to the port of entry when their number is near.

The odds for caravan migrants to get across appear slim.

"At the end of the day they are human, they deserve to feel safe," Cruz says. "They deserve the opportunity to have their claim be heard but not all of them will qualify. And it is a journey that many will take and many will continue to take."

Today, thousands of caravan migrants are stalled in Tijuana. The border battle was intensified as a peaceful march turned into chaos that led to the firing of tear gas by Border Patrol agents when groups of desperate migrants attempted to breach the border fence two weeks ago.

Tijuana's Mayor declared a humanitarian crisis as the financial responsibility has drained the city's resources.

Tijuana shut down the migrants' former emergency shelter over unsanitary conditions. Local authorities relocated over 2,000 migrants to a new shelter named "El Barretal," a former concert venue nearly 10 miles south of the border.

As the migrants fate grows with uncertainty, some have decided to go back to their home country while some have applied for work visas in Tijuana for now. But as the weeks go by, some migrants believe breaching the border illegally is their only way to get across as a desperate bid to seek asylum.

Migrants like "Jesus" are seeking options outside the U.S.

"If us who have a family would be given the opportunity, we would go to Canada," Jesus says. "The U.S. is not necessary. What is necessary is a better future for our children."

Since the arrival of the caravan, the waiting list for asylum seekers has grown to more than 5,000 names. But migrants like Maria would not give up hope to get across.

"If they grant me asylum in the U.S., I would have a new life," Maria says. "It would be a new chapter. I would not have to remember everything I left behind in my country. I could never go back to Honduras, and I do not lose faith that they will give me asylum."

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Jessica Cardenas
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