– Before dawn each morning, migrants slip away from a Tijuana shelter within sight of the U.S. border to head to jobs across this sprawling city. Moving solo or in pairs, they are easily recognized by their determined strides as people with someplace to be.

By sunrise, another crowd has gathered at a corner near the shelter to wait for job offers. On a recent morning, a dozen migrants scrambled into the bed of a Dodge pickup, their enthusiasm bringing a chuckle from the driver. The migrants didn’t even know where they were going or when they’d be back — some carried bedrolls — but said the work would be peeling tomatoes.

Facing a likely monthslong wait in Tijuana before even getting the chance to request asylum in the United States, many migrants are looking for work. Others who have already decided to stay in Mexico have applied for, and in some cases received, permits to work in Mexico. It’s something Mexican authorities have encouraged all the migrants to do in hopes that jobs will help them put down roots here rather than crossing into the U.S.

In most cases the migrants are relieved to have something that takes them away from the miserable conditions in the overcrowded shelter and puts some money in their pockets.

“Here you make a little money,” said Nelson David Landaverde, a 21-year-old Honduran who was out looking for food for his 16-month old son when someone approached and asked if he wanted to work at a carwash. He didn’t think twice. He and his pregnant wife have put their names on an informal list of thousands of potential applicants for asylum in the U.S., but in the meantime he’s eager to earn money to make their lives a little easier in Tijuana.

The job pays about 75 cents per car, and by washing as many as 10 cars on a good day he hopes to take in more than Mexico’s minimum wage, which is less than $5 a day.

While authorities have closed the shelter near the border and moved many of the migrants to another more distant shelter, hundreds have refused to leave the old one and are camped outside. The reason many give is that they have found jobs nearby.

Marco Rosales, a Honduran immigrant who has lived in Tijuana for eight years, stood in the street surrounded by Central American migrants eager for his job advice.

“Don’t come here with the mentality of Honduras,” he said. “This is a new country, a new state where you can change yourself if you want to.”

He only had room that morning for a handful to work at another nearby carwash, but he was sure he could find work for more later if they were willing.

“I’m trying to explain to them that you’ll get ahead doing things the right way,” he said, when asked why he had urged them to work instead of joining a march to the border. “If we do things the wrong way we’re not going to get anywhere. If they want to march to close the border it’s not going to accomplish anything.”

At a downtown location, migrants were gathered to start the paperwork to apply for temporary visas in Mexico that would allow them to work legally. Once they get their Mexican identification numbers they can meet with recruiters for assembly plants, where turnover is high and jobs are always available.

Baja California state officials say they have identified thousands of jobs that the migrants could apply for.

Fernando Hernandez said he had just arrived in Tijuana a day earlier, but was there to find work while he awaited a chance to enter the U.S.

“If we can cross [to the U.S.], we cross, but if not, you’ve got to work in the meantime,” said the 24-year-old, who worked in warehouses in his native Honduras.

Attendance at a job fair set up to help migrants find work has surged since a Nov. 25 march on the U.S. border devolved into chaos when some migrants breached the border and U.S. agents responded by firing tear gas. Before the march, only about 100 migrants were showing up each day, a number that has since grown to 400 or more.