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Asylum-seekers forced to remain in Mexicali face long journey to court hearings

Kate Morrissey, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

Through Border Kindness, Kelly Overton and fellow volunteer Yolanda Brown help migrants in Mexicali shelters access food and other basic needs. Brown has created a list of returnees and their court dates to track when asylum seekers need to take buses to Tijuana. She has already added more than 200 people.

On the Tijuana side, volunteers with Families Belong Together pay for hotels for the returnees until they cross the border for court.

As of Friday, the groups had helped 57 people board buses bound for Tijuana, including K and her two daughters.

"Most of these people wouldn't have gotten to Tijuana without us," Overton said.

He and Brown drive around to Mexicali's shelters in the morning to pick up people whose court hearings are two days away. When there are more than will fit into their two cars, which is frequent, they pay taxis to help them transport the crowd to a bus station.

Overton worries about the migrants who they're not able to find.


"From the moment they leave Central America, someone is trying to exploit them," Overton said. "For every one person trying to help them, there's 100 trying to exploit them."

Those scheduled to leave on that day last week followed Overton and Brown into the bus station, their expressions a mixture of nervous and grateful. One young girl carried a plastic toy castle with her.

Overton handed out 50 pesos per person to each family in addition to paying their bus fares -- 395 pesos per adult, half price for children between 5 and 10 years old and free for children younger than that.

All of the money going to pay for the asylum-seekers' travel expenses are from private donations, he said. He's worried about what will happen if and when the money runs out.


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