Wednesday 19 December 2018

Mexican protesters voice anger against migrants heading towards US

Donald Trump expressed support for the mayor of the city of Tijuana where migrants have gathered.

A demonstrator carries a Mexican flag during a protest against the presence of thousands of Central American migrants in Tijuana (Ramon Espinosa/AP)
A demonstrator carries a Mexican flag during a protest against the presence of thousands of Central American migrants in Tijuana (Ramon Espinosa/AP)

By Amy Guthrie, Associated Press

Hundreds of residents of the Mexican city of Tijuana congregated around a monument in an affluent section of the city south of California to protest against the thousands of Central American migrants who have arrived via caravan in hopes of a new life in the US.

Tensions have built as nearly 3,000 migrants from the caravan poured into Tijuana in recent days after more than a month on the road, and with many more months ahead of them while they seek asylum.

The Mexican 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 Cuauhtemoc, one mile 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.

A woman who gave her name as Paloma lambasted the migrants, who she said came to Mexico in search of handouts.

“Let their government take care of them,” she told video reporters covering the protest.

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.

ipanews_2421be41-072e-4b41-9513-f62f4debfb0e_embedded239774970
A young Central American migrant receives a free meal of chicken, rice and tortillas in Tijuana (Marco Ugarte/AP)

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 have returned to their country since the caravan first set out on October 13, and that he hopes more will make that decision.

“We want them to return to Honduras,” said Mr Rivera.

Honduras has a murder rate of 43 per 100,000 residents, similar to US cities like New Orleans and Detroit.

Tijuana mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum has called the migrants’ arrival an “avalanche” that the city is ill-prepared to handle, calculating that they will be in Tijuana for at least six months as they wait to file asylum claims.

ipanews_2421be41-072e-4b41-9513-f62f4debfb0e_embedded239773228
Demonstrators stand under an indigenous statue of Aztec ruler Cuauhtemoc (Ramon Espinoza/AP)

Mr Gastelum has appealed to the federal government for more assistance to cope with the influx.

Mexico’s Interior Ministry said 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.

ipanews_2421be41-072e-4b41-9513-f62f4debfb0e_embedded239759763
Central American migrants gather at a at a temporary shelter (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Some from the caravan have diverted to other border cities, such as Mexicali, a few hours to the east of Tijuana.

US President Donald Trump, who sought to make the caravan a campaign issue in the midterm elections, used Twitter to voice support for the mayor of Tijuana and try to discourage the migrants from seeking entry to the US.

Mr Trump wrote that like Tijuana, “the US is ill-prepared for this invasion, and will not stand for it. They are causing crime and big problems in Mexico. Go home!”

He followed that tweet by writing: “Catch and Release is an obsolete term.

“It is now Catch and Detain. Illegal Immigrants trying to come into the USA, often proudly flying the flag of their nation as they ask for US Asylum, will be detained or turned away.”

Press Association

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News