12 Photos: What Hope Looks Like for Refugee Camps at the U.S. Border

The caravan movement is sustained by self-organized migrants and the volunteers who stand with them. It’s an organized, mobilized hope.
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Children decorating a Christmas tree brought by volunteers to the warehouse-turned-refugee camp near the Benito Juarez Stadium in Tijuana, Mexico.

For the past few months, I’ve been documenting the Central American exodus, the thousands of people traveling north and now stuck living at the U.S.-Mexican border. Staring at a new year, I’ve been asked what hope looks like for people trapped in this humanitarian crisis and living under growing state oppression. What comes to mind is good people stepping up and taking action, the compassion from folks here in Tijuana and abroad, from lawyers and legal observers to the independent media makers. People are choosing to spend their holidays here volunteering. Autonomous antifascist collectives are organizing, and every day volunteers are showing up, plugging in, and being helpful. Then there are the migrants themselves. The caravan movement is sustained by tireless effort of self-organized migrants and the people who stand with them. It’s an organized, mobilized hope.

It’s not an easy atmosphere for volunteers operating in Tijuana. Police routinely shake them down for money. (I was robbed by the police my second night in the city.) There are attempted abductions. Cars are broken into. Members of independent media are detained by Homeland Security and questioned upon re-entry into the U.S. Even with the real dangers, the people of the solidarity network aiding the migrants and refugees choose to remain and do this humanitarian work.

People of the Central American exodus cook, dance, and celebrate Christmas together beyond the Barretal refugee camp in Tijuana, Mexico.

Volunteers with the group Border Angels, which specializes in migrant outreach, immigration consulting, and education and advocacy, bring cake and supplies into the Barretal refugee camp on Christmas Day.

DuWayne Redwater, a Lakota from South Dakota, sings in solidarity. He said, “If you know the real story of the eagle and the condor—everything is already laid out before us. The path is set. We will win with prayer.”

Wiyaka Eagleman, Sicangu Lakota, livestreams as people along the border were teargassed by U.S. police while seeking asylum in November. Wiyaka is part of a group of North American Indigenous people standing in solidarity with the migrant caravan. They brought supplies, prayers, and social media coverage.

Lorenzo Serna, a producer with Unicorn Riot, a nonprofit media collective based in Minneapolis, is questioned by police in Tijuana while live reporting on the detention of migrants and refugees by police outside a shelter near the border wall. Serna said he was arrested for being a journalist in both North Dakota and Iowa while covering events related to the Dakota Access pipeline protests and the Mississippi Stand.

John, 21, is from Tijuana. He helps out the refugee camp by bringing in supplies when he is able. This photo was taken when tensions were high after a group of local Trump supporters and Mexican nationalists were confronting people camped outside of the Benito Juarez Stadium.

People of the exodus gather at the border wall near the San Ysidro port of entry as U.S. agents deny them the right to seek asylum. There are reports of another massive migrant caravan, reportedly 4,000 people, preparing to leave Central America next month.

One person tries to scale a wall near the port of entry in Tijuana to get to the U.S. side so that he can seek asylum.

Municipal police in Tijuana make arrests on Christmas Day from in and around the refugee camp at the warehouse near the Benito Juarez Stadium. This makeshift camp has been threatened with eviction unless they pay the property owner more money.

Near the border wall between San Diego and the Playas area of Tijuana, more than 400 people, led by religious leaders from multiple faiths, demonstrate their support for the refugees and opposition to the Trump administration’s border policies. On Dec. 18, 32 of them were arrested.

Volunteers serving food inside the makeshift refugee camp at the warehouse near the Benito Juarez Stadium in Tijuana.