Human+Kind: Juan's story

ARMANDO. PHOTO CREDIT: CARLOS RODRIGUEZ, RED CROSS VOLUNTEER

ARMANDO. PHOTO CREDIT: CARLOS RODRIGUEZ, RED CROSS VOLUNTEER

Migration affects the lives of millions across the United States, the Americas, and globally. The Human+Kind project seeks to highlight the stories of migrants in the US-Mexico borderlands and the work of humanitarian organizations to support them, including the work of the Red Cross. For more from this project, please click here.

I have been in Tijuana for 10 months since I was deported. I volunteer at the shelter. I guard the front door. I have seen people that have been deported from the United States, as well as people who have migrated from the south on their way north.

I have family in the United States, a young son. I’ve received a lifetime ban from re-entering. So, I’m here for the time being and, while I’m here, I’m taking classes [at the shelter] to complete my high school education. I’m also studying computers. I put together my first PowerPoint presentation on sea turtles who are at risk of extinction.

I’ve seen many people take root here, thinking at first that they will jump the fence soon after arriving but finding it too difficult to get across. They’ll start collecting cans, selling cardboard, cleaning car windows, or selling candies to make ends meet. Some start drinking or doing drugs or get caught up in the violence. They adapt to life on the streets and they get stuck here. Some make it, some don’t.

There was a girl in her early twenties who would come to the shelter for breakfast. She was in Tijuana to look for her boyfriend. One day I was reading the paper [while stationed at the door] and I saw her picture. The paper reported that the girl was from southern Mexico and that her family was in Tijuana to look for her. We talked to the girl the next time she came in and convinced her to return home. 

There was an older man who had not seen his son for five years. The father came to the shelter looking for him. The father showed us his son's picture but he did not look familiar. When the son, a United States veteran, finally turned up, he looked nothing like he did in his picture. He was thin and frail. Crystal methane had eaten him up. His family took him home.