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Chasing the American Dream: Four Migrants in Tijuana Tent Camp Tell Their Stories

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Last Tuesday, accompanied by an African asylum seeker serving as translator, The Liberty Buzz gained access to the El Chaparral migrant camp in Tijuana, Mexico, just across the border from the San Ysidro border crossing near San Diego, which more than 2,000 people call home, some for more than five years.

These are the stories of four migrants who live in the camp. For their safety and protection, we did not photograph them, and we have given them pseudonyms.

We asked each of them, “What does the American Dream mean to you?”

Javier came to the Tijuana tent encampment from Honduras. There, he faced extortion by the local gang that made it increasingly hard for him to feed his children. Javier missed one payment, and that immediately put his life in danger.

One day, gang members saw Javier’s brother riding Javier’s motorbike. Thinking it was Javier, they killed him. As soon as he heard the news, Javier packed up his children, grabbed what they could carry, and set off for the U.S. On the way to Mexico they were robbed twice.

Still, he knows he’s closer to safety in the migrant camp in Tijuana than he was in Honduras.

HONDURAS-GANGS-ARREST Members of the criminal gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) are transported by officers of the National Police in Tegucigalpa, on February 19, 2021.
Photo by ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP via Getty Images

She left her home after local gang members tried to rape her 13-year-old daughter. She took the next bus out of the country and begged bus station to bus station until someone gave her enough money to make the next fare. She said Mexican citizens look down on her and treat her as less than equal. However, she said in the encampment she has found support, and she remains optimistic, with a dream that keeps her alive.

“More than a Dream, America is a need,” she said. “We need protection. I need a better life for my family.”

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