Caravan migrants weighing options
TIJUANA, Mexico – Migrants camped in Tijuana after traveling in a caravan to reach the U.S were weighing their options Tuesday after a California court blocked President Donald Trump’s asylum ban for illegal border crossers.
Many said they have no intention of breaking the law, but were feeling pressure after anti-migrant protests in this Mexican border city and claims by Trump and the Tijuana mayor that the caravan harbors gang members and criminals, something they strongly deny.
Keven Paul Mejia, a 27-year-old former security guard from the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, said there were some delinquents traveling with the group of several thousand who smoke marijuana and get drunk.
But, he said, most are like him, just hoping to land a job in the U.S. “There are more of us who are good, than bad,” Mejia said.
Herson Cordonez, a 29-year-old Honduran, said the actions of a few migrants were tainting the image of the 4,000 to 6,000 in the caravan, not all of whom have yet reached Tijuana. “We are not criminals, we are migrant workers,”Cordonez said, adding that he was considering trying to get into Canada if the U.S. doesn’t want him.
On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen visited a San Diego Pacific Coast beach examining up close the newly installed razor wire wrapped around a towering border wall that cuts across the sand. On the Tijuana side, dozens of onlookers gathered with cellphones to take pictures of her arrival through the fence.
“This is a border wall with row upon row of concertina wire,” Nielsen said. “Make no mistake, we are very serious. You will not get into our country illegally.”
Criminals: She said there were as many as 500 criminals and gang member in the groups heading northward, though she refused to answer questions about how they were identified or what crimes they had committed. She added that caravan migrants had assaulted “border police in multiple countries,” even using “incendiary devices,” though she provided no evidence.
Arrests: A day earlier, Tijuana officials said they had arrested 34 caravan members for drug possession, public intoxication, disturbing the peace and resisting police, and they would be deported to their home countries
Nielsen said there were 6,200 migrants already camped in Tijuana and another 3,000 in Mexicali, a few hours’ drive to the east. She said most were young single men who have no legitimate claim to U.S. asylum, adding that wanting to get a job in the U.S. or be reunited with family were not reasons to be allowed in.
Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum has made a point of saying the city is not happy with the migrants who began arriving last week, and he compared the Central American group unfavorably with about 3,000 Haitians who ended up staying after their bid to reach the U.S. failed last year.
“The Haitians arrived with their papers, with a clear vision,” Gastelum said in an interview posted on the city’s Facebook page. They came “in an orderly way, they never asked us for food or shelter,” renting apartments and making their own food. He said the Haitians found jobs and “inserted themselves in the city’s economy” and had not been involved in any disturbances.
By contrast, Gastelum said, the caravan of Central Americans, “had arrived all of sudden, with a lot of people – not all … but a lot – were aggressive and cocky.”