As the sun rose on Friday morning, Antonio, 51, was gathering his things and saying his goodbyes at a large migrant shelter on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico.
Since 2020, Title 42, a public health measure implemented during the pandemic, has allowed border authorities to swiftly expel migrants who crossed into the United States illegally. A surge of arriving migrants and a limited number of asylum appointments have led to large numbers of people waiting in border communities like Tijuana.
On Friday, Antonio’s family was part of the first group of asylum seekers processed after the expiration of Title 42 on May 12.
The family started trying to schedule an appointment two and a half years ago. They finally secured one after months of attempts on CBP One, a smartphone app developed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Many migrants The Times spoke with described the app as glitchy and hard to use.
On any given day, around 1,600 migrants live together at the shelter facility, sleeping side by side on a sea of mats, mattresses and bunk beds. Many like Antonio are internally displaced Mexicans fleeing the growing presence of cartels in southwestern states like Guerrero and Michoacán.
“In Michoacán, it is very hard to live peacefully,” Antonio said in Spanish. “You walk down the street and suddenly you’re in the middle of a shooting.”
The family came to Tijuana in 2020 to seek asylum after Antonio’s son, then 16 years old, was kidnapped by gang members and held for ransom. After Antonio’s brother was also kidnapped, the family decided to flee. His brother has now been missing for three years.
Around 10 a.m., Antonio’s family waited in line nervously with around 100 other migrants who had also received appointments that day.
“I’m happy because this is the culmination of a process we began a long time ago,” Antonio said minutes before entering. “Now the fear is that we don’t know what happens next.”
Aline Corpus contributed reporting. Axel Boada contributed video editing.