Since Sunday, the people of Tijuana have seen demonstrations by locals protesting against the thousands of Central American migrants who have arrived at the border town, which is just across from San Diego, California. Protesters displayed placards telling the migrants, who are largely from poverty-stricken Honduras, to go home. Tensions rose further during the week, as the leader of a so-called self-defense group called in a video for narcoterrorists to "attack" the migrants, who are seeking asylum in the United States.

On Friday, Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum of Tijuana, Mexico, declared a humanitarian crisis in his border city and called on the United Nations to respond with aid for the the thousands of migrants assembled there who have the intention of crossing into the United States. He said that the cost of government aid to the mostly Central American migrants has risen to more than $25,000 each day. He said: “I am asking for help from international organizations because more than 4,700 Central American migrants are stuck here in the city in precarious conditions because the national government has not gotten involved, even though this is is constitutional duty.”

Gastelum has complained to Mexico’s Ministry of Government for having left Tijuana, a city of over one million people, to deal with the so-called migrant caravan. Chastising Mexico’s central government, he said on a local radio show on Friday, “I am not going to put public services at risk; I won’t spend the money of the people of Tijuana; I will not put Tijuana into debt because we have not done that over the last two years.” Mexico’s federal government has sent approximately 100 federal police to Tijuana to reinforce local law enforcement, while units of the Mexican army and marines were also seen on the streets.

Saying that his city has been left “all alone” to deal with the crisis, Gastelum said that he is basing his emergency declaration on Mexican law, which provides for political asylum and aid. He called on Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to assume responsibility for the migrants. There are local reports of migrants suffering various respiratory ailments, including influenza and tuberculosis. According to local police, 108 Central American migrants have been arrested for crimes ranging from public drunkenness, possession of narcotics, and disturbing the peace. Others have been arrested for fighting, robberies, and defying authorities.

In early October, hundreds of migrants banded together in Honduras and walked or rode into Guatemala. In their thousands, they broke through the border between Mexico and Guatemala and began their trek to the U.S.-Mexico border with the intention of demanding asylum in the United States. President Donald Trump has reinforced the southwest border of the U.S. and given the military installed there permission to use lethal force if necessary. 

On Thursday, approximately 200 migrants of about 4,700 left behind a make-shift sanctuary provided by the local government at an open-air sports complex to install themselves on a road leading to the port of entry into the U.S. They are now about 500 feet away from the line dividing the U.S. from Mexico. Mostly from Honduras, the migrants are waiting there, having taken their blankets and mattresses. Some of them launched protests against U.S. security forces on the other side of the San Ysidro entry port, who were conducting preparedness exercises. This week, the border crossing was temporarily shut down because of reports that migrants planned to rush the border en masse to overwhelm U.S. security there. Several lanes from Mexico into the U.S. were restored after about three hours.

Earlier this week, Mexico’s Employment and Social Welfare agency announced that 217 Mexican and multinational companies with business in Tijuana are offering employment to jobseekers, whether they are foreigners or Mexicans. While most of the jobs are located in and around Tijuana, jobs are also available elsewhere in Mexico. Among the companies cooperating with the government are CRI of Mexico, Grant Thornton, and Goldenstar of Mexico.

Some Mexicans have not been as hospital to the migrant caravan as has the local government. For example, the leader of a leader of a so-called paramilitary self-defense organization recently called on members of the drug cartels to attack the migrants. Ivan Riebeling released a video on social media, in which he is holding what appears to be semi-automatic weapon of the sort that is supposedly illegal for civilian use in Mexico. “We know that you protect your turf. So, you know exactly what you need to do. The leaders of gangs and assassins, you know what to do.” He called on his viewers to band together to “hunt down” migrants and take them to Mexican immigration authorities so that they can be deported. “This is not a migration,” he said, “It’s an invasion by criminals.”

Appearing to back away from the use of lethal force, Riebling said that his group will use baseball bats. “We’ll use non-lethal weapons, rubber bullets, and cartridges filled with salt, for those who have shotguns.” 




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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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