Confronting Coronavirus: a Letter from the Borderlands

Confronting Coronavirus: a Letter from the Borderlands

by Carlos J. Correa-Bernier
Centro Romero

“Dear siblings in Christ:

As you already know, for the last nine months, we have been fighting against the consequences of the policies implemented by the Trump administration concerning our Latin American siblings who are seeking political asylum in the United States. Unfortunately, the United States Supreme Court voted in favor of the permanence (at least temporary) of the “return to Mexico” policy, thus affecting the security and migration process of the Central American migrant community in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico.

Central American migrants who are stuck in Mexico continue to live in the campaign house communities that we (Centro Romero and Global Ministries), along with our colleagues from the Catholic Church and Pentecostals, help to establish. Overcrowding and poor sanitation remain one of the most extraordinary challenges we face each week. All of this was true before the arrival of a new reality with COVID-19 or better known as the Coronavirus.

As of today, March 15, 2020, 43 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Mexico, while 37 other possible cases are monitored, with suspicions of another 876. The virus will contaminate,  8 out of 10 Mexicans, as Mr. Hugo López-Gatell, Deputy Secretary of Public Health of Mexico, forecasted recently. Despite the horrifying nature of these numbers, none of them includes the migrant community gathered in Tijuana.

This week, representatives of the Catholic Church, Alpha and Omega Ministries, community entities, and Centro Romero met with the Mayor of Tijuana, who was accompanied by the Director of Public Health of the City Council. We spent time talking about the strategies that are supposed to be in place to address the results of the pandemic, including members of migrant communities who are affected by the virus. Unfortunately, at least for the most immediate moment, there are no remedial plans that are focused on Central American migrant groups in Tijuana. So far, the only thing being considered is to move them to the outskirts of the city, to avoid possible contact with the citizens of Tijuana.  As you can imagine, this situation has the potential to spiral out of control very quickly.  Meanwhile, The Franciscan Sisters, who recently closed a psychiatric hospital in Rosarito, have placed the hospital facilities under the command of the migrant community and the Catholic Church.

The immigrant community in Tijuana amounts to approximately 1,200 people. According to the Bacteriologists of the Iberoamerican University of Mexico City (Jesuit University), the cost of care for this community could reach the amount of more than half a million dollars or $ 595,000.00 taking as a point of reference projection of 700 infected people.

As far as we are concerned, we at Centro Romero will start working with single mothers. This decision is based on the fact that children do not appear to be affected by the virus as are adults. Therefore, we will work in the care and preservation of the health and well-being of mothers who are the only people who care for their children. At this time, we have 52 mothers with their children under our direct care.

The initial intervention will include moving them from tents to motels or rooms, where they can live in individual units with their sons and daughters (without having to be convened with other people, preventing contagion). This phase will also include food and virus testing (if necessary).

The Catholic Church will focus on the medical aspect of the strategy. They will be in charge of preparing the hospital facilities and recruiting the doctors available through the Catholic Charities system.

Our Pentecostal siblings will dedicate themselves to feeding and monitoring the health of the women and their children. Centro Romero will be in charge of identifying the pharmacies and laboratories (in Mexico and the United States) where we can obtain the corresponding tests and the results of the same. At C7 (a grassroots Christian Community, associated with Centro Romero), we have a participant who works in the city’s pharmaceutical industry, which will help us identify the pharmaceutical company and laboratory that can provide us with the tests and results.

We request your prayers and solidarity amid difficult times at the border. We know that the God who knows no limits to love and hope will accompany us until the end of the world.”