From a Precarious Situation to Another
by Lourdes Hercules.
The great caravan that started from Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador is about to reach the US border. Most migrants are asking to be officially accepted into the country. The city of Tijuana is split between those who help migrants and those who reject them.
A little over a month has passed since the first group, in a spontaneous migrant caravan, left Honduras and started its Northbound journey. Today, a few yards from the US border, their situation is not more encouraging than it was when they decided to leave it all behind.
In Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, violence, poverty, and the lack of opportunities have historically driven millions of people to migrate towards the United States. This year, the 7,000+ caravan has decided to do so in a visible and massive way, but now it is trapped in the same conditions it was fleeing, if not even worse.
Central American migrants reached the city of Tijuana, in Baja California, Mexico. This city shares a border with the County of San Diego in the US. Usually, at this point in their journey, migrants try to cross the border between the two countries in every way they can. This time around, some of them have tried to do so, while the majority has decided to settle down in the Mexican city and apply for asylum with the US government from there.
The President of the United States, Donald Trump, issued an executive order whereby he rejects any asylum requests from people who enter the country illegally. However, last Tuesday, a federal judge revoked the order stating that «he (i.e. Donald Trump, ed.) cannot rewrite immigration laws to mandate a requirement that Congress has expressly rejected». Now the government is waiting to receive asylum applications from people who have already entered the country illegally, as well as from people who apply from behind the wall, where their wait is far from being easy.
Local media reported that at least 2,000 Central American migrants are already in Tijuana, but a total of 7,000 are expected to arrive over the next few days. Right now, groups that include men, women, children, and elderly people are staying in a camp inside the Benito Juárez Sports Arena. However, the occupation of public facilities, the constant mobilization of foreigners and the allocation of State resources to assist them have caused dissatisfaction among the local population and clashes in Tijuana.
In addition, during the last few days, hundreds of Tijuana residents gathered to protest the arrival of Central American migrants, mostly from Honduras. «Trump was right, it’s an invasion», some demonstrators were chanting. Even if the Tijuana community is used to receiving a great number of immigrants, this time hostility and xenophobia towards the caravan has been something unprecedented in this border city, as the BBC World broadcasts have shown.
During the last weekend, fights broke out between two groups: people who support the caravan and even give migrants food, clothes, and toiletries on one side, and those who reject their presence and approached the refugee camp with clubs and stones to intimidate them, on the other side.
«How can it be that people like us, who are fleeing from violence in our country, are looking for more violence? We don’t want any violence! We are carrying neither stones nor weapons, we are peaceful folks who are fleeing an unsustainable situation», a man from Honduras told the British media.
Tensions and uncertainty might escalate over the next few days, as migrant numbers rise, and local resources dwindle. The US government is able to receive 100 asylum applications per day; therefore it could take between 6 and 16 months before all applications are processed, during which migrants can decide to stay in Tijuana or go back to their countries of origin. A precarious situation in their homeland, a precarious situation in Tijuana.