A few hundred Tijuana residents are protesting the arrival of Central Americans in caravans en route to the United States. Defying US pledges to categorically deny asylum, more migrants are preparing to head north.
On Sunday, about 300 residents of Tijuana chanted slogans targeting 2,500 people from Central America who arrived this weekend to apply for asylum across the border in the United States. Multiple caravans of migrants have traveled more than 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) from Honduras and El Salvador.
Mexico's government estimates that 10,000 people could arrive in Tijuana with the caravans, which first reached the border city last week after a month of travels. US officials process about 100 asylum claims a day at the main crossing from the Mexican state of Baja California Norte to San Diego, the last major city on the West Coast of the United States.
Many Mexicans offered food, clothing and rides as caravans journeyed north on daily legs that averaged 50 kilometers, often on foot. The welcomes waned as caravans reached Tijuana, where some residents threw rocks at the first people to arrive, telling them to go home.
That continued Sunday. Groups attempted to charge the shelter where the people are staying as they await their fates; others threw bottles at the police or echoed the language of US President Donald Trump, calling migrants' arrival an "invasion."
Other residents protested the xenophobia and expressed solidarity with caravans. Some of the Central Americans took to the streets themselves — sweeping and picking up trash in a mostly futile effort to show hostile residents that they could contribute to their new temporary city.
Mexico's government has sent food and blankets to stranded migrants. City officials have converted the municipal Benito Juarez gymnasium and recreational complex into a shelter to keep migrants from sleeping in public spaces.
Some of the hundreds of Central Americans stuck 180 kilometers east in Mexicali, the capital of the state of Baja California Norte, said they'd accept employment within Mexico as they acknowledged the likely hostility of US officials to their applications for asylum. Last week, Mexico's government had announced that people who obtaine legal status in the country could fill thousands of job vacancies, most of them in maquiladoras, or factories.
More en route
New US rules block asylum for people who reach the border without documents. Poverty and the general threat of violence are not considered grounds for asylum in the United States. Earlier this month, Trump deployed almost 6,000 troops along the US's 3,145-kilometer border.
Some people turned around on the journey. Alden Rivera, the Honduran ambassador to Mexico, told news agencies that 1,800 citizens had gone home since the caravan set out in October. He said he hoped more would: "We want them to return to Honduras."
For others, the travels have just begun. Saying violence and poverty had made life in El Salvador unsustainable, on Sunday 200 people gathered in the capital and headed west together by bus. From there, the people — including many families with children — said they would travel to Guatemala by bus and onward to the United States.
mkg/aw (EFE, Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)