Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition

Tijuana Protesters Chant 'Out!' At Migrants Camped In City

Police stand guard to protect a migrant shelter as demonstrators protest the presence of thousands of Central American migrants in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018.
Associated Press
Police stand guard to protect a migrant shelter as demonstrators protest the presence of thousands of Central American migrants in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018.
Tijuana Protesters Chant 'Out!' At Migrants Camped In City
Tijuana Protesters Chant 'Out!' At Migrants Camped In City GUEST:Gustavo Solis, reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Our top story on Midday edition the U.S. government closed northbound lanes of the sand you see a port of entry for several hours this morning. Customs and Border officials say closing the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Mexico was necessary in order to position border security barriers. The closure comes a day after hundreds of Tijuana residents protested against the presence of thousands of Central American migrants in the city. San Diego Union Tribune reporter Gustavo Solis has been covering the story and he joins me now. Welcome. Hello Jane. Thanks for having me. All right Gustavo Can you give us an update on the border closure. Well the border closure is has been lifted. So some of the lanes have been reopened about six twenty five this morning and last time I checked about 16 of the 26 lanes at Sandy Seadrill are open but CBP officials said people heading into the U.S. should expect delays because of the remaining lanes that are closed. And Gustavo what impact did this several hour closure have on people who normally commute to San Diego from Tijuana for work or school. Well it's a little hard for me to say what happened between 3 15 in the morning and 620 in the morning so I'm sure it had some impact on the people crossing early probably those who go to school and get to work early. You know the last time I checked about 10:00 in the morning the wait times were about 120 minutes to cross the standard line. And in Tijuana on Sunday you reported that hundreds of protesters marched to a shelter where Central American migrants are staying. Paint the scene for us of what happened there. Did the protest or the march started about two and a half miles away from the migrant shelter in a different part of town and there was mostly people chanting and waving flags and carrying signs and a couple of hours into the chanting and the marching they decided to go to the shelter. Originally they were supposed to go to the shelter. They were supposed to finish at a government building but the group mentality took over a little bit. And they are part of a large part of the protest ended up going to the migrant shelter. Well who are the protesters and why were they protesting. The protesters I spoke to are mostly Tijuana residents and the majority of them are people who live in Tijuana and they are just critical equally of the migrants who they see as bringing an element of crime. They sort of trashed a city. There's not enough room for them in Tijuana. And also at the government for their response to the caravan that came over and what I found interesting about the criticism of the government that is twofold One is that they're not doing enough in that there's a lot of disorder. They don't seem to have a good strategy for addressing the issue. But also that they're doing too much to help the migrants especially in a place that already has their own problems with high crime rates and high poverty rates. So several of the people marching were saying that the government should focus on the problem plaguing the residents of the city instead of diverting resources to help out the caravan and Gustavo coming back to the border closure this morning is this part of what protesters are concerned about disruptions to their daily lives because of the presence of members of the migrant caravan. It was a big concern for the people in the march. I heard it from several of them that if the lanes closed there would be a catastrophe for Tijuana mostly in the economic sense. They've said that had more than half of the city's economy depends on people crossing the border. That means both people who live in the U.S. and work in Tijuana and vice versa. And now the mayor of Tijuana has also been critical of the Central American migrants. What is he said. He has been critical of them he's essentially said they're lazy. Not all of them. He he does introduce nuance to some of his statements. But he will say that as a group of them are lazy they smoke marijuana they don't behave as they should. And he has just been critical of the presence of Central American migrants in Tijuana. And you know some of the language of Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum and tactics of the protesters in Tijuana sound very similar to language we've heard from President Trump calling the migrant caravan an invasion questioning if they are criminals. Where do you think this is coming from. Well I think that people listen to and hear what Trump is saying in his speeches and even on Twitter yesterday morning on Twitter Trump mentioned Tijuana's president saying the city is equipped to handle this and Migros should go home at the caravan of the protest against the caravan. People have signs that echoed some of the Trump's campaign signs including some now said Mexico first or no invasion. And how does the treatment of members of the migrant caravan in Tijuana compare to their treatment in other parts of Mexico. Is the based on the interviews I had with members of the caravan the treatment they're getting in Tijuana is the polar opposite of everything else they've experienced in Mexico. They just have not throughout their journey which has taken weeks or up to a month in some cases they've never come across this animosity or this notion of locals telling them that they're not wanted here. And how have the migrants themselves responded to the protest. I talked to some of them yesterday while the protest was going on and they were shook up the protest was happening near the shelter or outside the shelter and you could hear a little bit of what was being said you know Hondurans get out we don't want you here the way the sheltered handled the protests. They asked the migrants not to leave so that there wouldn't be direct confrontations. So what that led to was hundreds of people being contained in a shelter and just sort of anxiously waiting for the big crowd shouting and waving flags to disperse. People said they were nervous and worried particularly because there are a lot of children there. I've been speaking with San Diego Union Tribune reporter Gustavo Soliz Gustavo thank you so much. Thank you I appreciate it.

Hundreds of Tijuana residents congregated around a monument in an affluent section of the city south of California on Sunday to protest the thousands of Central American migrants who have arrived via caravan in hopes of a new life in the U.S.

Tensions have built as nearly 3,000 migrants from the caravan poured into Tijuana in recent days after more than a month on the road, and with many more months ahead of them while they seek asylum. The federal government estimates the number of migrants could soon swell to 10,000.

U.S. border inspectors are processing only about 100 asylum claims a day at Tijuana's main crossing to San Diego. Asylum seekers register their names in a tattered notebook managed by migrants themselves that had more than 3,000 names even before the caravan arrived.

On Sunday, displeased Tijuana residents waved Mexican flags, sang the Mexican national anthem and chanted "Out! Out!" in front of a statue of the Aztec ruler Cuauhtemoc, 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) from the U.S. border. They accused the migrants of being messy, ungrateful and a danger to Tijuana. They also complained about how the caravan forced its way into Mexico, calling it an "invasion." And they voiced worries that their taxes might be spent to care for the group.

"We don't want them in Tijuana," protesters shouted.

RELATED: Customs And Border Protection Prepare As Hundreds Of Caravan Migrants Arrive In Tijuana

Juana Rodriguez, a housewife, said the government needs to conduct background checks on the migrants to make sure they don't have criminal records.

A woman who gave her name as Paloma lambasted the migrants, who she said came to Mexico in search of handouts. "Let their government take care of them," she told video reporters covering the protest.

A block away, fewer than a dozen Tijuana residents stood with signs of support for the migrants. Keyla Zamarron, a 38-year-old teacher, said the protesters don't represent her way of thinking as she held a sign saying: Childhood has no borders.

Most of the migrants who have reached Tijuana via caravan in recent days set out more than a month ago from Honduras, a country of 9 million people. Dozens of migrants in the caravan who have been interviewed by Associated Press reporters have said they left their country after death threats.

But the journey has been hard, and many have turned around.

Alden Rivera, the Honduran ambassador in Mexico, told the AP on Saturday that 1,800 Hondurans have returned to their country since the caravan first set out on Oct. 13, and that he hopes more will make that decision. "We want them to return to Honduras," said Rivera.

Honduras has a murder rate of 43 per 100,000 residents, similar to U.S. cities like New Orleans and Detroit. In addition to violence, migrants in the caravan have mentioned poor economic prospects as a motivator for their departures. Per capita income hovers around $120 a month in Honduras, where the World Bank says two out of three people live in poverty.

The migrants' expected long stay in Tijuana has raised concerns about the ability of the border city of more than 1.6 million people to handle the influx.

While many in Tijuana are sympathetic to the migrants' plight and trying to assist, some locals have shouted insults, hurled rocks and even thrown punches at them. The cold reception contrasts sharply with the warmth that accompanied the migrants in southern Mexico, where residents of small towns greeted them with hot food, campsites and even live music.

Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum has called the migrants' arrival an "avalanche" that the city is ill-prepared to handle, calculating that they will be in Tijuana for at least six months as they wait to file asylum claims. Gastelum has appealed to the federal government for more assistance to cope with the influx.

Mexico's Interior Ministry said Saturday that the federal government was flying in food and blankets for the migrants in Tijuana.

Tijuana officials converted a municipal gymnasium and recreational complex into a shelter to keep migrants out of public spaces. The city's privately run shelters have a maximum capacity of 700. The municipal complex can hold up to 3,000.

At the municipal shelter, Josue Caseres, 24, expressed dismay at the protests against the caravan. "We are fleeing violence," said the entertainer from Santa Barbara, Honduras. "How can they think we are going to come here to be violent?"

Some from the caravan have diverted to other border cities, such as Mexicali, a few hours to the east of Tijuana.

Elsewhere on Sunday, a group of 200 migrants headed north from El Salvador, determined to also find safety in numbers to reach the U.S. Edwin Alexander Gomez, 20, told AP in San Salvador that he wants to work construction in New York, where he hears the wages are better and the city is safer.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who sought to make the caravan a campaign issue in the midterm elections, used Twitter on Sunday to voice support for the mayor of Tijuana and try to discourage the migrants from seeking entry to the U.S.

Trump wrote that like Tijuana, "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!"

He followed that tweet by writing: "Catch and Release is an obsolete term. It is now Catch and Detain. Illegal Immigrants trying to come into the U.S.A., often proudly flying the flag of their nation as they ask for U.S. Asylum, will be detained or turned away."