Migrant Caravan Waits in Tijuana After Difficult Journey

Border fence between Tijuana (right) and San Diego's border patrol offices (left).
Border fence between Tijuana (right) and San Diego's border patrol offices (left).

by Adriana Watkins

 

A group of approximately 2,000-3,000 migrants from Central America reached Tijuana, Mexico on November 15, with more set to arrive as the weeks continue. The travelers, mostly seeking escape from poverty and violence, are citizens of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.  They made the trek in a long line or caravan, alternatively walking and hitchhiking. During rest periods, they camped in large groups.

The caravan’s journey began in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and spanned over 3,000 miles, with some migrants choosing to stay in Mexico, and others continuing on to the Mexico-United States border. Some reports estimate that as many as 10,000 people could end up stalled in Tijuana as they wait for their applications to be processed.

 

Coverage of the migrant caravan has varied widely, and the reported number of members remained difficult to determine from day to day. It is certain, however, that they departed from San Pedro Sula on October 13, originally beginning as a small group of migrants that grew quickly. The population waxed and waned throughout the voyage, with some smaller caravans splitting off to follow different routes at different paces.

 

The group has passed through Honduras, Guatemala, and most of Mexico, with governmental authorities making efforts to delay their movement. Mexican police in particular have tried to dissuade the caravans from moving further into the country. They formed a barricade across a bridge at the Suchiate River, which separates Mexico from Guatemala. Many migrants instead waded through the water, or crossed in small crafts.

 

Still, in many towns throughout Mexico, locals have welcomed the travelers warmly. For example, in Mexico City, The New York Times reports that migrants were offered evaluations by doctors and dentists, and the children of the caravan were entertained with crafts.

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This has not been the case in Tijuana, however, where the travelers have now begun the potentially months-long wait to be processed. Some citizens and officials alike have reacted violently to the presence of the caravan, especially as the number of migrants is projected to grow. Locals marched with signs in an anti-migrant protest on November 18, citing displeasure that migrants would receive aid despite entering the country illegally.

 

The mayor of Tijuana, Juan Manuel Gastélum, has also vocally denounced the presence of the caravan. He has appeared wearing a red baseball cap which reads “Make Tijuana Great Again” (a reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign cap reading “Make America Great Again”). According to NPR, he was quoted as saying about the migrants, “Human rights are for only upstanding humans.”

 

Tijuana, however, is a way station for most of the migrants. Anticipating the arrival of the caravan, whose members hope to enter the United States, President Donald Trump carried out his threat to cut aid to those Central American countries which did not impede the travelers. Now that the caravan has arrived at the border, The Washington Post estimates that only 100 migrants’ claims will be processed by U.S. border inspectors every day, signaling the start of a long wait for most of the travelers.

 

Meanwhile, amidst fears that resources to sustain them will run out, many migrants claim they cannot return home because of poverty or threats of violence from gangs and officials. Some may wait as many as six months or longer for a resolution.

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