The capital of Baja California, the city of Mexicali has a summer like no other. Temperatures reach 50 degrees centigrade, and today is one of those days. It is eight in the evening and the heat is still going. For some it’s harsher than for others. While some are at home watching television with the AC on, some people are not used to this extreme climate, for example the hundreds of immigrants being deported through his border.
Daily, more than 200 immigrants are deported through this border from the U.S. Before the appearance of the Immigrant Hotel, every person deported slept on the streets and were victims to street crime. What little they had was taken away from them.
Nevertheless, four years ago, the deported from the U.S. are now received by man named Sergio Tamai, and are taken in to sleep in in the only Hotel in Latin America created for immigrants: “El Hotel del Migrante Deportado Angeles sin Fronteras”.
This refuge was born on January 15th, 2010. It is positioned in Down Town Mexicali, which is two blocks away from the Calexico border. People in Mexicali say that this hotel used to be a very luxurious one during the 1940’s. It used to be called, “Hotel Centenario”.
In the year 2000, the hotel was abandoned, left in ruins, however, it was rescued by the people of Mexicali and converted into a refuge. This hotel would help the deported immigrants, and it was a decision of the people not the government.
“They were treated like trash”
The founder Sergio Tamai tells us a story of the first time he was faced with a deported immigrant. It was a cold night in 2010, he saw a man walking very fast, but this person was far away. The fast walking man looked disoriented, and only had a backpack with him.
Tamai, a small business owner from Japanese decent, had several Candy stores near the border. He knew that man walking fast with a back pack was deported immigrant, expelled from the U.S. for not having legitimate papers to live and work across the border.
“In those days in Mexicali, the deported were not permitted entrance to stores because they looked like homeless people. They were not bathed, hair not combed, just looking wrong to everyone. They were criminalized in the U.S. and Mexico, they were thrown away like trash”, Tamai remembers.
Worried about the current situation, Sergio Tamai took action. This would be his life’s project. He wound have to create a refuge for more than 200 deported immigrants every night. “People asked me if I was crazy, they said I was going to go bankrupt, but none of that mattered, something had to be done, these are people not objects, or commodities, they have to be treated as human beings”.
This immigrant Hotel began functioning January 15th, 2010. When a group of immigrants helped Mr. Tamai cleaned the Hotel that had become a drug spot. He also used money from the income of his candy stores to refurbish the place.