As thousands of migrants wait in Tijuana, Mexico, for their turn to claim asylum at the American border, a report from Al Jazeera reporter John Holman says that an interesting method for keeping order has developed: migrants are assigned numbers and then added to a list managed by volunteers that immigration rights activists estimate stands at roughly 9,000 names. Approximately 40 people from the list are taken to the United States every day.

From the story:

The list is a strange thing. Volunteers who are migrants themselves, keep it in a notepad…it determines the order in which thousands of asylum seekers [in Tijuana, Mexico] will be seen by U.S. officials. No one knows exactly who started it or when, but it’s evolved into a system to try and keep order as the U.S. has slowed up the processing for asylum claims. Each day American officials tell their Mexican counterparts how many people they’re willing to receive. At 8:00 there’s an impromptu ceremony in which the list holders announce whose numbers have come up.

An asylum-seeker named Alejandro has been waiting for five months with his family and told Holman that the process is “a struggle” and there are many days when they have nowhere to stay.

Soraya Vazquez, a migrant rights lawyer, told Holman that the system is not legal. “People decide where they want to apply for asylum and should be able to ask for that right immediately,” she says. “This prerequisite to join this list doesn’t exist in any law, and that’s why it’s illegal.”

Watch the full Al Jazeera report below: