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On the Front Lines: Service Providers Respond to the Haitian Refugee Crisis

Tijuana is a city of migrants, it is a city diverse in its people and also a welcoming place where different cultures interlace. Yet, no one was prepared for the arrival of Haitians to Baja California, it was unexpected and unforeseen. At the moment Tijuana faces the situation of the arrival of approximately 15,000 Haitians to the region, it immediately becomes a humanitarian crisis. As has been seen in the past, the Mexican government failed to respond in any way to the crisis, public officials made statements saying Tijuana was not facing a crisis and that everything was fine. However, the service providers differed in opinion, all 36 shelters whether well established or as an improvised creation to the situation took action upon themselves as civil societies and religious affiliations organized and came to the rescue of Haitians refugees.

The phenomenon such as Haitian refugees arriving in Tijuana and the response by the local organizations are important to analyze in order to understand the role policies play in the work of service providers trying to integrate this population. A key element not to forget in the humanitarian crisis of Haitian Refugees is the immediate help provided such as food and shelter to which organizations emphasize on yet fail to address the long term needs of refugees. In order to bridge the gap between short-term and long-term responses, there has to be a conversation of integration policy and long-term solutions as Haitians become citizens of Mexico, changing completely not only their final destination but their lives. In this paper I will address how Tijuana service-workers feel that policy affects their ability to support the integration of Haitian refugees in their communities. In analyzing the factors of integration, I will also include a context of the situation in Tijuana when Haitian Refugees were added to the current migration population in the shelters of daily deportees and internally displaced people.