Watch the KCRA 3 documentary ‘Seeking Refuge: Hope on Hold’

Magenet Magenet

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In April 2022, KCRA 3 took a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border to track the current status of immigration and how it’s impacting California.Along the southern border, we encountered both pain and hope from families seeking refuge in the United States. The journey isn’t the same for everyone.Leer en españolIn KCRA 3’s latest documentary “Seeking Refuge: Hope on Hold,” our team uncovers who is waiting at the border, what they’re seeking and the differences in how their cases are being treated.| MORE | ‘For me, the American Dream doesn’t exist’: The stories behind those at the US-Mexico BorderHere’s a closer look at what we found.Ukrainians at the San Ysidro Port of Entry ‘relieved’ to be in the USLocation: Staging area for Ukrainian migrants, U.S. customs and border protection in San YsidroIn late April, the San Ysidro Port Of Entry (Pedestrian West) had been transformed into a staging area for Ukrainian migrants awaiting transportation. Several volunteer groups organized a tent with donations of food, toiletry items and car seats.Most people KCRA 3 spoke with were just staying here for a few hours while they waited for family members to pick them up or a shuttle to take them to a nearby church or shelter. Katrina Pyroh, a mother of two, said she was a volunteer during the war in Ukraine but eventually fled for the safety of her daughters.Through a translator, Pyroh said it took her family four days to arrive in Mexico, but they were uncertain about the outcome the entire time. “We didn’t know anything for sure but we were hearing that people were getting out this way,” she said.Pyroh told KCRA 3 she has family in Sacramento and may head there next, but for now, was relieved to finally be in the U.S. with the “ocean smell” in San Diego. Border patrol agent sees hundreds of dangerously attempted entries every day Location: Westernmost part of the border wall KCRA 3 rode alongside a border patrol agent as he made his rounds near the westernmost part of the border.Hector Quintanilla with U.S. Customs and Border Protection said his team sees upwards of 200 entries per day.He said he also sees a lot of injuries among migrants trying to cross the border over the 30-foot border wall. Quintanilla said people often use ropes with knots in them or PVC pipes converted into ladders. “You can see the difference in the height between the new secondary fence, which is 30-feet high, to the primary fence, which is 18 feet,” says Hector Quintanilla with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “It’s common people get injured falling from the fence.”In the report published in JAMA Surgery, researchers noted the trauma center at UC San Diego saw a significant uptick in patients who have died or been seriously hurt after falling from the wall.| MORE | Report finds increase in deaths, hospitalizations after 30-foot wall installed at US-Mexico borderThe report looked at border wall fall admissions from 2016 to 2021, and was adjusted to normalize changing migration patterns.”This year we’ve had over 270 rescues throughout our area of operations,” Quintanilla said. “From the ocean, to up into the mountain, and it varies from dehydration to not being mentally prepared, physically prepared. It’s not an easy hike to get across these borders.”According to the study, before the 30-foot wall was built (2016-2018), there were 67 fall admissions. After, there were 375 (2019-2021).Quintanilla said the area he patrols was notorious for agent assaults because of the topography with many places for people to hide.Church immigration manager says there’s been an outpouring of support for Ukrainian refugeesLocation: Christ United Methodist Church and Safe Harbors NetworkThe Safe Harbors Network finds housing for immigrants who have entered the country legally. Families or organizations offer housing temporarily while they get on their feet.The organization also offers a health clinic at the church in case people need medical attention.Immigration Manager Jimmy Marcelin told KCRA 3 the network has helped people from 27 different countries. However, Marcelin said he noticed a difference in people willing to help based on where refugees were coming from. “If you are seeing what happened with the Haitians eight months ago when they were crossing the border, they treated them like slaves. Like they were inhuman,” Marcelin said.Marcelin said there has been an outpouring of support for people from Ukraine and Russia.”Now we have a flood of Ukrainians, I’m getting calls from everybody, wants to open their door,” he said. “I have 15 houses just waiting for Ukrainians.” “It was different with Haitians. It was different for Latinos,” he said.American church near border helps Ukrainian refugees, fears getting shut down Location: San Diego CountyKCRA 3 visited a church that was operating as a temporary shelter for people arriving from Ukraine, but the church didn’t want us to share their name or location for fear of getting shut down.The church was providing food and a place to sleep for refugees while they waited for their flights or rides to more permanent places of living.The sanctuary was lined with air mattresses and groups of kids were playing outside on the playground and basketball court.Countertops were full of hot, homemade food for people arriving.Volunteers from Sacramento and Seattle stayed awake overnight to help wake up the refugees for their flights and print off their tickets. Migrants escaping home countries stuck in Tijuana shelter for years Location: Templo Embajadores De JesusTemplo Embajadores De Jesus is a shelter for migrants and refugees in Tijuana, Mexico. It’s located in a remote area, only accessible by dirt road.KCRA 3 was invited to go inside the shelter and speak with migrants and refugees from various countries including Honduras, Haiti, Mexico and El Salvador.At least 900 people, mostly families, are crammed into the church-turned-shelter. Templo Embajadores is filled to capacity because it’s one of few shelters offering refuge for large families.The living space is a large common area with rows of bunks beds. Most families are given only one or two beds for a large family, and all of their belongings must fit in a small space.Because of overcrowding, some families don’t have a bed, and are forced to sleep on sleeping mats on the floor once everyone has settled in for the night. The shelter offers communal meals, and there are limited restrooms and showers. A play area outside offers the children a sense of normalcy as their parents wait out their immigration status and proceedings.There’s a chore system for cleaning and maintaining the inside of the church, and everyone is assigned a role to keep the area as clean and sanitary as possible. Organizers and volunteers offer church services and transportation for migrants and refugees with jobs, when it’s available. The shelter runs solely on donations from the public, and they are constantly in need of funding, volunteers and assistance. Without financial help from the public, organizers say they would cease to exist, leaving 900 people on the streets.Most of the migrants and refugees living at Templo Embajadores De Jesus are there indefinitely, some having lived there for almost two years.KCRA 3 spoke with a Honduran woman at the shelter with her family of six, who said she left her home country after gang members killed several of her family members and threatened to kill her next.Although six in her family traveled to the border, she said she had to leave one of her sons behind out of fear that the journey would further complicate his health.She added that the journey for her family has been difficult, as they had been harassed by immigration officers, who demanded money on their way to the border and told them they would be deported back to Honduras if they didn’t pay.“For us, it’s been very hard, especially the kids. They’ve been traumatized, they can’t even look at a police officer without crying,” she said.“Sometimes people tell us, the people who don’t know our case, ‘You come because you want to suffer,’ and no, sometimes you’re obligated by your need,” she said.Migrants at Tijuana shelter flee violence, hope to find jobs to support their families Location: Casa Del Migrante Scalabrini in TijuanaCasa Del Migrante Scalabrini is a shelter for migrants and refugees in Tijuana. It’s located in a populated and residential area in the hills of Tijuana.Several dozen families live in separate, dormitory-style living spaces. Each dormitory has several bunk beds, and all families share a restroom, equipped with a shower and toilet.Meals are prepared by organizers and volunteers, and they are served communally.The shelter has an on-site attorney to help them with immigration cases and staff helps families obtain legal documents, including birth certificates and social security numbers if they do not have them.The shelter allows accommodation for up to 45 days, helping families get on their feet when they arrive to Tijuana. Casa Del Migrante provides medical and mental health care, including counseling for addiction, sexual abuse, and trauma.The shelter encourages and offers resources for migrants and refugees to get a job and provide an income for their families, providing assistance with resumes, job applications, and transportation to interviews.A Haitian man KCRA 3 spoke with at this shelter said he was looking to come to the U.S. in search of a job to better support his family. “The reason that I came here? First, looking for a better life but it’s what everyone is looking for, a better life for you and your family. That’s why I came here, to look for a better job that pays better for my family,” he said.He traveled to the border with his wife and son, and said he could not find a job in his home country of Haiti, despite having a university education.Children are able to play within the grounds of the shelter, but are not allowed outside due to the dangerous nature of their surroundings, and the conditions from which they fled. Children are encouraged to focus on school and art projects during their time at the shelter.A Salvadoran woman KCRA 3 spoke with said she was fleeing the threat of gang violence in her home country.She explained that she wanted to come to the U.S. to get better medical attention for her children.The youngest, she says, has heart murmurs and thyroid issues. Her 7-year-old has autism and hypothyroidism, and needs eye surgery due to it.“My kids have almost one year without medical attention, and they need treatment that they haven’t received here,” she said.“If this situation hadn’t happened to me, that my life would be threatened, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t have left my country,” she said.The shelter relies on donations from the public, help from volunteers, and works with a network of other nonprofit organizations to continue their work on a daily basis. Casa Del Migrante Scalabrini is part of the Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN), an umbrella organization of the Scalabrinian Congregation started by John Baptist Scalabrini.While it is a religious organization, there is no religious requirement for migrants and refugees living at the shelter.Volunteer at Ukrainian shelter impressed with the different organizations that came together to help refugeesLocation: Benito Juarez Sports Complex The Benito Juarez Sports Complex has become a hub for Ukrainian refugees on their way to the U.S.On arrival, they receive a registration number until they are notified by border authorities they are able to be processed. Ukrainian migrants spend an average of two to three hours in the shelter until they are transported into the U.S. via buses and vans.At the peak of the migration period, the Benito Juarez Complex processed up to 1,000 refugees per day. It then tapered down to about 200, up until April’s policy change which allowed those refugees to travel directly from Ukraine into the U.S.A network of volunteers and a network of churches under the umbrella of “United For Ukraine” keep this shelter running, along with the support of the Mexican government.Olya Krasnykh, co-president of the Council of Refugees organization, said that she was most impressed with the different organizations that came together to help. “I’m an atheist myself. I come from Silicon Valley. When I arrived I found volunteers from Orange County, from Seattle from kind of all over, and a lot of church groups were here, at least 40 different churches, who are sending supplies and volunteers,” she said.The shelter has a medical clinic, a kid’s play area complete with bounce houses, food and clothing donations. They also provide access to legal counseling.Krasnykh added that her organization was able to work with the Mexican government to get a safe location for refugees.”The Mexican government has been such an incredible partner. Our main point of contact with the Baja California office was here, up until 10 p.m., working on clogged toilets with us, side by side, so they’ve been an incredible partner,” she said.”We have this cohesive response network in helping us make sure that the process is as smooth as possible, whatever information they’re able to provide, but they were always receptive to the feedback and providing their support,” she continued.Founder of ‘Madres Deportadas en Acción’ helps those that have been deported in Tijuana connect with their family membersLocation: “Madres Deportadas en Acción” organization in the Chaparral area of Tijuana Maria Galleta founded the “Madres Deportadas en Acción” or “Deported Mothers in Action” organization more than a decade ago after seeing a large influx of people deported, many of them women and children.She wanted to provide a resource center where those unsure of their next step would be after being deported.She believes that when people are deported, the focus is often on what they might have done wrong and not what they leave behind.”We offer them to make calls, to let the families know that they’re here because a lot of times they don’t bring a phone with them, also they get clothes, we also help them with their papers also, their birth certificate,” Galleta said. “A lot of people who’ve lived in the United States for a long time, they don’t have any of their papers with them so they start over.”Her organization has now become the first location where immigrants, asylum seekers and recently deported come in search of immediate support.Volunteers at the center assist migrants in their transition by connecting them with needed resources such as shelters, food and clothing.They also work with a larger network of services such as rehabilitation centers and legal counseling.Galleta told KCRA 3 that many people she sees deported to Tijuana are not actually from there.”I don’t know what is the reason they’ve been deported to Tijuana, and I think that happened in other places also. They don’t know any place, they don’t know nothing here, and getting a job, getting a shelter, right now there’s 25 shelters, and all of them are full,” she said. Galleta lives in San Diego and commutes to Tijuana daily. She’s always had a passion for social work and has served as an activist in the region for over 30 years.KCRA 3’s Maricela De La Cruz, Andrea Flores, Hilda Flores, Denisse Gomez, Victor Nieto, Tamara Richter and Miguel Solorio contributed to this story and the documentary.

In April 2022, KCRA 3 took a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border to track the current status of immigration and how it’s impacting California.

Along the southern border, we encountered both pain and hope from families seeking refuge in the United States.

The journey isn’t the same for everyone.

Leer en español

In KCRA 3’s latest documentary “Seeking Refuge: Hope on Hold,” our team uncovers who is waiting at the border, what they’re seeking and the differences in how their cases are being treated.

| MORE | ‘For me, the American Dream doesn’t exist’: The stories behind those at the US-Mexico Border

Here’s a closer look at what we found.

Ukrainians at the San Ysidro Port of Entry ‘relieved’ to be in the US

Location: Staging area for Ukrainian migrants, U.S. customs and border protection in San Ysidro

In late April, the San Ysidro Port Of Entry (Pedestrian West) had been transformed into a staging area for Ukrainian migrants awaiting transportation. Several volunteer groups organized a tent with donations of food, toiletry items and car seats.

Most people KCRA 3 spoke with were just staying here for a few hours while they waited for family members to pick them up or a shuttle to take them to a nearby church or shelter.

Katrina Pyroh, a mother of two, said she was a volunteer during the war in Ukraine but eventually fled for the safety of her daughters.

Through a translator, Pyroh said it took her family four days to arrive in Mexico, but they were uncertain about the outcome the entire time.

“We didn’t know anything for sure but we were hearing that people were getting out this way,” she said.

Pyroh told KCRA 3 she has family in Sacramento and may head there next, but for now, was relieved to finally be in the U.S. with the “ocean smell” in San Diego.

Border patrol agent sees hundreds of dangerously attempted entries every day

Location: Westernmost part of the border wall

KCRA 3 rode alongside a border patrol agent as he made his rounds near the westernmost part of the border.

Hector Quintanilla with U.S. Customs and Border Protection said his team sees upwards of 200 entries per day.

He said he also sees a lot of injuries among migrants trying to cross the border over the 30-foot border wall. Quintanilla said people often use ropes with knots in them or PVC pipes converted into ladders.

“You can see the difference in the height between the new secondary fence, which is 30-feet high, to the primary fence, which is 18 feet,” says Hector Quintanilla with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “It’s common people get injured falling from the fence.”

In the report published in JAMA Surgery, researchers noted the trauma center at UC San Diego saw a significant uptick in patients who have died or been seriously hurt after falling from the wall.

| MORE | Report finds increase in deaths, hospitalizations after 30-foot wall installed at US-Mexico border

The report looked at border wall fall admissions from 2016 to 2021, and was adjusted to normalize changing migration patterns.

“This year we’ve had over 270 rescues throughout our area of operations,” Quintanilla said. “From the ocean, to up into the mountain, and it varies from dehydration to not being mentally prepared, physically prepared. It’s not an easy hike to get across these borders.”

According to the study, before the 30-foot wall was built (2016-2018), there were 67 fall admissions. After, there were 375 (2019-2021).

Quintanilla said the area he patrols was notorious for agent assaults because of the topography with many places for people to hide.

Church immigration manager says there’s been an outpouring of support for Ukrainian refugees

Location: Christ United Methodist Church and Safe Harbors Network

The Safe Harbors Network finds housing for immigrants who have entered the country legally. Families or organizations offer housing temporarily while they get on their feet.

The organization also offers a health clinic at the church in case people need medical attention.

Immigration Manager Jimmy Marcelin told KCRA 3 the network has helped people from 27 different countries.

However, Marcelin said he noticed a difference in people willing to help based on where refugees were coming from.

“If you are seeing what happened with the Haitians eight months ago when they were crossing the border, they treated them like slaves. Like they were inhuman,” Marcelin said.

Marcelin said there has been an outpouring of support for people from Ukraine and Russia.

“Now we have a flood of Ukrainians, I’m getting calls from everybody, [who] wants to open their door,” he said. “I have 15 houses just waiting for Ukrainians.”

“It was different with Haitians. It was different for Latinos,” he said.

American church near border helps Ukrainian refugees, fears getting shut down

Location: San Diego County

KCRA 3 visited a church that was operating as a temporary shelter for people arriving from Ukraine, but the church didn’t want us to share their name or location for fear of getting shut down.

The church was providing food and a place to sleep for refugees while they waited for their flights or rides to more permanent places of living.

The sanctuary was lined with air mattresses and groups of kids were playing outside on the playground and basketball court.

Countertops were full of hot, homemade food for people arriving.

Volunteers from Sacramento and Seattle stayed awake overnight to help wake up the refugees for their flights and print off their tickets.

Migrants escaping home countries stuck in Tijuana shelter for years

Location: Templo Embajadores De Jesus

Templo Embajadores De Jesus is a shelter for migrants and refugees in Tijuana, Mexico. It’s located in a remote area, only accessible by dirt road.

KCRA 3 was invited to go inside the shelter and speak with migrants and refugees from various countries including Honduras, Haiti, Mexico and El Salvador.

At least 900 people, mostly families, are crammed into the church-turned-shelter. Templo Embajadores is filled to capacity because it’s one of few shelters offering refuge for large families.

The living space is a large common area with rows of bunks beds. Most families are given only one or two beds for a large family, and all of their belongings must fit in a small space.

Because of overcrowding, some families don’t have a bed, and are forced to sleep on sleeping mats on the floor once everyone has settled in for the night.

The shelter offers communal meals, and there are limited restrooms and showers. A play area outside offers the children a sense of normalcy as their parents wait out their immigration status and proceedings.

There’s a chore system for cleaning and maintaining the inside of the church, and everyone is assigned a role to keep the area as clean and sanitary as possible.

Organizers and volunteers offer church services and transportation for migrants and refugees with jobs, when it’s available. The shelter runs solely on donations from the public, and they are constantly in need of funding, volunteers and assistance. Without financial help from the public, organizers say they would cease to exist, leaving 900 people on the streets.

Most of the migrants and refugees living at Templo Embajadores De Jesus are there indefinitely, some having lived there for almost two years.

KCRA 3 spoke with a Honduran woman at the shelter with her family of six, who said she left her home country after gang members killed several of her family members and threatened to kill her next.

Although six in her family traveled to the border, she said she had to leave one of her sons behind out of fear that the journey would further complicate his health.

She added that the journey for her family has been difficult, as they had been harassed by immigration officers, who demanded money on their way to the border and told them they would be deported back to Honduras if they didn’t pay.

“For us, it’s been very hard, especially the kids. They’ve been traumatized, they can’t even look at a police officer without crying,” she said.

“Sometimes people tell us, the people who don’t know our case, ‘You come because you want to suffer,’ and no, sometimes you’re obligated by your need,” she said.

Migrants at Tijuana shelter flee violence, hope to find jobs to support their families

Location: Casa Del Migrante Scalabrini in Tijuana

Casa Del Migrante Scalabrini is a shelter for migrants and refugees in Tijuana. It’s located in a populated and residential area in the hills of Tijuana.

Several dozen families live in separate, dormitory-style living spaces. Each dormitory has several bunk beds, and all families share a restroom, equipped with a shower and toilet.

Meals are prepared by organizers and volunteers, and they are served communally.

The shelter has an on-site attorney to help them with immigration cases and staff helps families obtain legal documents, including birth certificates and social security numbers if they do not have them.

The shelter allows accommodation for up to 45 days, helping families get on their feet when they arrive to Tijuana. Casa Del Migrante provides medical and mental health care, including counseling for addiction, sexual abuse, and trauma.

The shelter encourages and offers resources for migrants and refugees to get a job and provide an income for their families, providing assistance with resumes, job applications, and transportation to interviews.

A Haitian man KCRA 3 spoke with at this shelter said he was looking to come to the U.S. in search of a job to better support his family.

“The reason that I came here? First, looking for a better life but it’s what everyone is looking for, a better life for you and your family. That’s why I came here, to look for a better job that pays better for my family,” he said.

He traveled to the border with his wife and son, and said he could not find a job in his home country of Haiti, despite having a university education.

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Children are able to play within the grounds of the shelter, but are not allowed outside due to the dangerous nature of their surroundings, and the conditions from which they fled. Children are encouraged to focus on school and art projects during their time at the shelter.

A Salvadoran woman KCRA 3 spoke with said she was fleeing the threat of gang violence in her home country.

She explained that she wanted to come to the U.S. to get better medical attention for her children.

The youngest, she says, has heart murmurs and thyroid issues. Her 7-year-old has autism and hypothyroidism, and needs eye surgery due to it.

“My kids have almost one year without medical attention, and they need treatment that they haven’t received here,” she said.

“If this situation hadn’t happened to me, that my life would be threatened, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t have left my country,” she said.

The shelter relies on donations from the public, help from volunteers, and works with a network of other nonprofit organizations to continue their work on a daily basis. Casa Del Migrante Scalabrini is part of the Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN), an umbrella organization of the Scalabrinian Congregation started by John Baptist Scalabrini.

While it is a religious organization, there is no religious requirement for migrants and refugees living at the shelter.

Volunteer at Ukrainian shelter impressed with the different organizations that came together to help refugees

Location: Benito Juarez Sports Complex

The Benito Juarez Sports Complex has become a hub for Ukrainian refugees on their way to the U.S.

On arrival, they receive a registration number until they are notified by border authorities they are able to be processed. Ukrainian migrants spend an average of two to three hours in the shelter until they are transported into the U.S. via buses and vans.

At the peak of the migration period, the Benito Juarez Complex processed up to 1,000 refugees per day. It then tapered down to about 200, up until April’s policy change which allowed those refugees to travel directly from Ukraine into the U.S.

A network of volunteers and a network of churches under the umbrella of “United For Ukraine” keep this shelter running, along with the support of the Mexican government.

Olya Krasnykh, co-president of the Council of Refugees organization, said that she was most impressed with the different organizations that came together to help.

“I’m an atheist myself. I come from Silicon Valley. When I arrived I found volunteers from Orange County, from Seattle from kind of all over, and a lot of church groups were here, at least 40 different churches, who are sending supplies and volunteers,” she said.

The shelter has a medical clinic, a kid’s play area complete with bounce houses, food and clothing donations. They also provide access to legal counseling.

Krasnykh added that her organization was able to work with the Mexican government to get a safe location for refugees.

“The Mexican government has been such an incredible partner. Our main point of contact with the Baja California office was here, up until 10 p.m., working on clogged toilets with us, side by side, so they’ve been an incredible partner,” she said.

“We have this cohesive response network in helping us make sure that the process is as smooth as possible, whatever information they’re able to provide, but they were always receptive to the feedback and providing their support,” she continued.

Founder of ‘Madres Deportadas en Acción’ helps those that have been deported in Tijuana connect with their family members

Location: “Madres Deportadas en Acción” organization in the Chaparral area of Tijuana

Maria Galleta founded the “Madres Deportadas en Acción” or “Deported Mothers in Action” organization more than a decade ago after seeing a large influx of people deported, many of them women and children.

She wanted to provide a resource center where those unsure of their next step would be after being deported.

She believes that when people are deported, the focus is often on what they might have done wrong and not what they leave behind.

“We offer them to make calls, to let the families know that they’re here because a lot of times they don’t bring a phone with them, also they get clothes, we also help them with their papers also, their birth certificate,” Galleta said. “A lot of people who’ve lived in the United States for a long time, they don’t have any of their papers with them so they start over.”

Her organization has now become the first location where immigrants, asylum seekers and recently deported come in search of immediate support.

Volunteers at the center assist migrants in their transition by connecting them with needed resources such as shelters, food and clothing.

They also work with a larger network of services such as rehabilitation centers and legal counseling.

Galleta told KCRA 3 that many people she sees deported to Tijuana are not actually from there.

“I don’t know what is the reason they’ve been deported to Tijuana, and I think that happened in other places also. They don’t know any place, they don’t know nothing here, and getting a job, getting a shelter, right now there’s 25 shelters, and all of them are full,” she said.

Galleta lives in San Diego and commutes to Tijuana daily. She’s always had a passion for social work and has served as an activist in the region for over 30 years.


KCRA 3’s Maricela De La Cruz, Andrea Flores, Hilda Flores, Denisse Gomez, Victor Nieto, Tamara Richter and Miguel Solorio contributed to this story and the documentary.

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