Tensions have built as nearly 3,000 migrants poured into the Mexican border city in recent days
Hundreds of Tijuana residents have congregated to protest the thousands of Central American migrants who have arrived in the Mexican border city hoping for a new life in the US.
Tensions have built as nearly 3,000 migrants from a caravan that has been travelling through Central America poured into Tijuana in recent days. The federal government estimates the number of migrants could soon swell to 10,000.
US border inspectors are processing only about 100 asylum claims a day at Tijuana’s main crossing to San Diego. Asylum seekers register their names in a tattered notebook managed by migrants themselves that had more than 3,000 names even before the caravan arrived.
On Sunday, displeased Tijuana residents waved Mexican flags, sang the Mexican national anthem and chanted “Out! Out!” in front of a statue of the Aztec ruler Cuauhtémoc, one mile (1.6km) from the US border. They accused the migrants of being messy, ungrateful and a danger to Tijuana. They also complained about how the caravan forced its way into Mexico, calling it an “invasion”. And they voiced worries that their taxes might be spent to care for the group.
“We don’t want them in Tijuana,” protesters shouted.
Juana Rodriguez, a housewife, said the government needed to conduct background checks on the migrants to make sure they didn’t have criminal records.
A block away, fewer than a dozen Tijuana residents stood with signs of support for the migrants. Keila Samarron, a 38-year-old teacher, said the protesters didn’t represent her way of thinking as she held a sign saying: “Childhood has no borders.”
Most of the migrants who have reached Tijuana via caravan in recent days set out more than a month ago from Honduras, a country of nine million people. Dozens of migrants in the caravan who have been interviewed by Associated Press reporters have said they left their country after death threats.
But the journey has been hard, and many have turned around.
Alden Rivera, the Honduran ambassador in Mexico, told the AP on Saturday that 1,800 Hondurans had returned to their country since the caravan first set out on 13 October and that he hoped more would make that decision. “We want them to return to Honduras,” said Rivera.
Honduras has a murder rate of 43 per 100,000 residents, similar to US cities like New Orleans and Detroit. In addition to violence, migrants in the caravan have mentioned poor economic prospects as a motivator for their departures. Per capita income hovers around $120 a month in Honduras, where the World Bank says two out of three people live in poverty.
The migrants’ expected long stay in Tijuana has raised concerns about the ability of the border city of more than 1.6 million people to handle the influx.
While many in Tijuana are sympathetic to the migrants’ plight and trying to assist, some locals have shouted insults, hurled rocks and even thrown punches at them. The cold reception contrasts sharply with the warmth that accompanied the migrants in southern Mexico, where residents of small towns greeted them with hot food, campsites and even live music.
The Tijuana mayorm Juan Manuel Gastelumm has called the migrants’ arrival an “avalanche” that the city is ill-prepared to handle, calculating they will be in Tijuana for at least six months as they wait to file asylum claims. Gastelum has appealed to the federal government for more assistance to cope with the influx.
Mexico’s interior ministry said Saturday that the federal government was flying in food and blankets for the migrants in Tijuana.
Tijuana officials converted a municipal gymnasium and recreational complex into a shelter to keep migrants out of public spaces. The city’s privately run shelters have a maximum capacity of 700. The municipal complex can hold up to 3,000.
Article originally posted by theguardian.