JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Migrants whose pursuit of the American dream has hit a wall are finding temporary jobs in border warehouses, restaurants, bars, doughnut shops and even funeral homes.
That’s according to a city official who has helped procure full-time employment in Juarez for more than 180 citizens of Central, South American and Caribbean countries who have put on hold plans to cross into the U.S.
“We advise them how to obtain documents like work permits and a social security registry. We have met with industry leaders and been told businesses are willing to hire them,” said Santiago Gonzalez Reyes, head of Juarez’s Human Rights Office.
Officials estimate tens of thousands of migrants from all over the world have come to Juarez in the past three years. Most stay only as long as it takes them to present an asylum claim or make it past U.S. border agents after several tries.
“Juarez has many unfilled jobs, but not all migrants are looking for employment. The border is a pathway, not a destination for most migrants who come here. Their objective is the United States. Getting a job on the border was not part of their original plan,” Gonzalez said.
In addition to the formal job market, many migrants have found work in small businesses and open-air markets.
“I believe we need to give people an opportunity to make a dignified living,” said Cristina Ibarra, owner of La Tequeria restaurant on Juarez Avenue. “Sometimes people will last one month, two months, then cross to the United States.”
Ibarra gained notoriety in 2019 when she opened Little Havana, a restaurant in Downtown where the waiters, cooks and cashiers were all from Cuba. Little Havana closed after the Trump and Lopez Obrador administrations cracked down on migrant caravans and few new Cubans came to Juarez.
The new surge that coincides with President Joe Biden’s tenure has again brought thousands of international citizens to the border, and Ibarra says she’s happy to hire them.
“I’ve had Haitians and Central Americans. Right now, a Venezuelan girl is about to start (working) here. We’ve had Arabs and Israelis,” Ibarra said. Some don’t speak Spanish, the language of Mexico, but “there is a universal language for trying to get ahead. Sometimes you don’t need words, you don’t need to know the language.”
She’s had non-Spanish speakers bus tables, cook or clean the premises of La Tequeria, which is a play on words for “taco shop” and “I used to love you.”
Ibarra emphasized that not all migrants in Juarez are foreigners. Residents of southern Mexico and states where the drug cartels are oppressing and decimating the population of rural enclaves are also bolting for border cities like Juarez.
“Those who come from Mexico turn out to be experts at making tacos, at mixing sauces. They come with that knowledge,” she said. “It’s been a very satisfying experience. […] Whatever time they spend in my business, I want them to keep their dignity, to have enough money for their expenses, I want them to be at peace. We have to extend a hand to others.”