As a caravan of Central Americans starts to arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border in larger numbers, its travelers are facing a new hurdle: Anger from locals who do not want them to be given food and shelter as they await to apply for asylum to the United States.
President Donald Trump, who classified the caravan of mostly Hondurans, Guatemalans, and Salvadorans hoping to legally seek asylum in the United States as an “invasion” has sent thousands of troops to the border. Only around 100 applications are being processed a day at the border crossing to San Diego, and roughly 3,000 migrants currently need food, shelter, and medical care in Mexico as they wait their turn.
This has left the residents of Tijuana — many of them poor — angry, resulting in protests in the border city.
Hundreds of residents gathered in an affluent part of town on Sunday, chanting “Out! Out!” and using President Trump’s term “invasion” to describe people who don’t in fact, want to stay in Mexico.
There is resentment that a gymnasium has been converted into a shelter for the migrants, although if the numbers swell to the anticipated 10,000, more space will be needed. Around 200 anti-migrant protesters tried to reach a shelter yesterday, but were blocked by police, reported the Agence France-Presse.
One Honduran migrant at the shelter, Josue Caseres, 24, told the AP, “We are fleeing violence. How can they think we are going to come here to be violent?”
In a move that is bound to increase tensions, U.S. authorities closed off traffic from Tijuana for several hours on Monday, putting up new wire-topped barriers. Also closed were one of two pedestrian crossings into San Ysidro, California.
This complicates things for the 110,000 people coming to the United States in 40,000 vehicles each day, and is likely to increase resentment towards the migrants.
There are smaller caravans heading north, but whether they make it to the U.S. border or are turned around remains to be seen. The journey is tough and dangerous, resulting in some choosing to risk returning to their home countries.
For instance, according the Honduran ambassador to Mexico, some 1,800 Hondurans have returned back home from this caravan, which has been on the road for about a month.
Mexicans have largely been helpful to the migrants, offering them food and shelter, carrying signs that show support for the people who are fleeing poverty of violence in their home countries and hoping to build a secure life in the United States.
The anger in Tijuana is being fanned by Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum, who on Friday called the caravan an “avalanche” of people who might need to stay for as long as six months.
President Trump, who after using the caravan as a major issue in the lead up to the midterms has been largely silent on the issue since, took to Twitter to support Gastelum:
The Mayor of Tijuana, Mexico, just stated that “the City is ill-prepared to handle this many migrants, the backlog could last 6 months.” Likewise, the U.S. is ill-prepared for this invasion, and will not stand for it. They are causing crime and big problems in Mexico. Go home!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 18, 2018
The Trump administration is facing two lawsuits in federal courts on Monday over its decision to prevent migrants from applying for asylum if they enter the United States between official ports of entry .