Migratory tourism in Tijuana 2023/10/23

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By: Enrique Lucero Vázquez *

We do not know how it was or how it happened, but in the blink of an eye the city of Tijuana began to see the presence of a new migration of people from Russia in mid-July 2021. It could be assumed that they were ahead of the conflict with Ukraine, which ended up exploding on February 24, 2022, or, fleeing the authoritarian regime that currently predominates in that country.

Little by little, the Russians began to become more visible in the city due to their attempts and irregular entries across the Tijuana-San Ysidro border. They found a cunning way to circumvent the asylum procedures before the US authority, posing as border visitors through the vehicle line and, when arriving at the checkpoint before an immigration agent, they proclaimed the word "asylum", since during On those dates, the border was closed to request it in a legal and orderly manner, caused by the covid-19 pandemic and the immigration policy called Title 42, a public health declaration whose purpose is to prevent any virus from spreading between its borders. The route taken by the Russian community to reach Tijuana and then request asylum in the United States is relatively simple. According to the catalog of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, people with a Russian passport can travel to Mexico without the need to apply for a Mexican visa, they just have to carry out an online procedure Electronic Authorization System (SAE). Once arriving in Mexico, either through the International Airport of Mexico City or Cancun, they take another flight to the border city, thus avoiding the via crucis carried out by other migrations such as Haitian, Venezuelan or people from the African continent. who are forced to walk through the Darién jungle for seven days, without forgetting the other difficulties they go through simply by migrating in precarious conditions.

According to figures from the Migration Policy Unit of the Ministry of the Interior, from January to August of this year, 43,456 Russians have entered the country as tourists. It is impossible to know if all these people really come with the purpose of requesting asylum in the United States, since, when they present themselves with the agent of the National Immigration Institute at the port of entry, they demonstrate that they have the financial solvency to carry out tourist activities in our country. . But there is an indicator that shows that a large part of Russian tourists actually come to request asylum in the United States, it is the application for cell phone use called CBP ONE, which has become the main legal avenue for thousands of asylum seekers. asylum who need to protect themselves from any persecution they have been suffering from their place of origin. This application has generated much criticism from pro-migrant organizations for not distinguishing people's vulnerability, nationality, and social stratum.

According to the latest number of asylum seekers entering the United States through the CBP ONE application, they have entered through the Tijuana-El Chaparral port of entry, known in English as PedWest, since the day it was launched, on December 18. January, until September, 13,151 Russians, which represents 30% of those who have entered as tourists during the year; 19% of regular crossings through Tijuana and are second only to asylum seekers of Mexican nationality.

Russian migration in Tijuana, at first, generated certain complications in the binational coexistence between Tijuana and San Ysidro, since their forced attempts to enter US territory caused temporary closures at the port of vehicular entry and detailed inspections that generated delays. at the crossings of thousands and thousands of people who enter the United States every day to carry out work, academic, business activities, among others. Today, the arrival in Tijuana of asylum seekers of Russian nationality, rather than generating an accommodation crisis or irregular crossings, has been the way that the United States and many international organizations have promoted orderly, safe and regular migration. Of course, it is nothing compared to the socioeconomic profile of migrants of other nationalities who do not have sufficient resources to reach the border cities between Mexico and the United States under equal conditions.

Tijuana is known for its great medical tourism, but today migratory tourism for asylum seekers in the United States is beginning to emerge. With the arrival of the Russian community to the city, the owners of hotels, apartments or rooms rented through the Airbnb application have benefited, because they are occupying these spaces for a period of up to 6 months, an estimated time that a Asylum seeker waits for the CBP ONE application to send them a scheduled appointment to be able to appear at the chosen border port and begin their regular or legal entry into the United States. While this happens, Russians frequent cafes, restaurants, shopping centers or tourist centers in the city.

Others, whose countries belonged to the former Soviet Union, such as Armenia, Belarus, Ukraine, among others, have joined this way of emigrating to the United States, as Russian nationals are doing. Tijuana has become an international route for migration and, circumstantially, touristically attractive for many asylum seekers who, while waiting for their turn to enter the United States, are discovering and enjoying its culture, gastronomy and multiple entertainment activities that this region has. border town.

* Municipal Director of Migrant Assistance in Tijuana

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