As Migrant Caravans Arrive At Tijuana Border, Tensions Mount With Local Residents
LAKSHMI SINGH, HOST:
We've been following the journey of Central American migrants - men, women and children who have been making their way north through Mexico to the border with the United States. Thousands have arrived in the border town of Tijuana. Many more are on the way. They're not only being met by U.S. troops but also by Tijuana residents who are protesting their arrival. Reporter James Fredrick is there.
James, thank you for joining us.
JAMES FREDRICK: Thanks for having me.
SINGH: James, you're at an anti-caravan march in Tijuana. Is that right? What are the marchers there saying?
FREDRICK: So after the caravan got here to Tijuana, there was quite an uproar among local citizens saying the caravan was bringing chaos to this city, that there weren't enough resources to care for the caravan, that, you know, why is the government spending money on taking care of the caravan when there are poor people in Mexico? I spoke to one of the people at the protest. This is Patreicia Rey (ph), and this is what she had to say.
PATREICIA REY: (Speaking in Spanish).
FREDRICK: She wants them to leave Mexico. She said they're invading the city. They entered Mexico illegally like animals, and they need to follow our laws. So, right now, I am looking at riot police. There's dozens of Mexican riot police that have blocked the street where Tijuana's largest migrant shelter is. This anti-caravan march wanted to march to the shelter. Police are blocking them from coming in here. But it's pretty tense at the moment.
SINGH: Can you tell us what's happening on the U.S. side of the border where the border agents and troops are located?
FREDRICK: Well, a source within Customs and Border Patrol told NPR that they're sending another 500 Border Patrol agents to the San Ysidro port, the main port here in Tijuana. But we need to reiterate here that the caravan at no point has said they plan on storming the border. But, either way, there are additional Border Patrol troops. And you can see it going along the border that it is very heavily reinforced right now.
REY: Give me a sense, if you can, how people are taking care of these migrants. I know that there's a lot of tension, anger against this caravan. But we're seeing reports that they're also, you know, getting charity. They're getting food and water and clothing.
FREDRICK: So, you know, as you can imagine, Tijuana is quite accustomed to having lots of migrants passing through here. It's one of Mexico's main border towns. And so we have seen lots of people coming, giving food and clothing and water to the migrants. There are some pretty large migrant shelters here that are taking them in. Tijuana's city government has set up a little stadium as a place that the caravan can sleep as they wait here in Tijuana. So we shouldn't frame it as everyone in Tijuana is against them. But we're - really are seeing tensions in the city between people who are here to support the caravan and people who want them to leave.
REY: Now that they're there in Tijuana, what do they say they expect to be the next step for them - those who are, for example, planning on seeking asylum?
FREDRICK: Well, they're in a difficult situation because the way that the asylum process works here in Tijuana is that migrants themselves for a long time now have had a little notebook. And you go and you put your name in this notebook if you want to seek asylum at the U.S. port of entry. That notebook now has more than 3,000 names in it. The caravan members have been adding their names to it.
The thing is, they're only processing as little as 30 or as many as 100 asylum applications per day. So to get through a list of thousands - and this list will continue growing - is going to take months. And so it puts these people in a very difficult situation of what they do if they don't have any way to make money or necessarily anywhere to stay but they want to stay here in Tijuana and request asylum at the U.S. port of entry.
SINGH: Reporter James Fredrick in Tijuana, Mexico.
Thank you, James.
FREDRICK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.