San Diego, California, USA : The first wave of 800 migrants from the much larger caravan have arrived at the U.S./Mexico border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico. At a border fence that separates Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California some of them began illegally entering the U.S. after climbing the fence as captured on video.
Video of the incident was first captured by Televisa Tijuana Oficial and frontera
Their arrival in Tijuana marked the end of one struggle — making it safely to the United States border. But it signaled the start of another to get across that border, something that President Trump has promised to impede, even for those seeking asylum. Mr. Trump has labeled the caravan an invasion, deployed American soldiers to the border and made changes to asylum rules in efforts to confront it.
A few of the migrants who have made it to Tijuana were already trying to figure out how to get appointments with American border officials to present their cases for sanctuary, migrants’ advocates said. Most, however, appear to be biding their time and considering their options, including seeking sanctuary in the United States, trying to cross illegally or remaining in Mexico.
About 800 migrants associated with the caravan have made it to Tijuana so far, according to local officials and advocates, with thousands more still crossing Mexico and expected to arrive in the next several days.
On the United States side of the border on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis traveled to Texas to meet with some of 5,600 American troops deployed to support border security as the caravan approached. He continued to stand by President Trump’s order to send up to 15,000 American troops to the southwest border, telling soldiers on Wednesday that their mission is to put obstacles in the way of the approaching caravan.
Mr. Trump has come under fire from critics who accuse him of stoking fears about the migrant caravan as a threat to get Republicans to the polls for the midterm elections. He has not tweeted about the caravan since the elections on Nov. 6.
The Trump administration has reassigned border agents from El Paso, Texas and nearby crossings to Arizona and California in anticipation of the caravan’s arrival, said Hector Mancha, the El Paso director of the United States Customs and Border Protection’s field operations.
From his place in line outside a soup kitchen in downtown Tijuana on Wednesday morning, Wisthon José Betancourt could see the tawny, sun-baked hills of Southern California off in the distance and the new life they suggested. Part of the vanguard of the caravan, he had just stumbled off a bus after an arduous day-and-a-half drive.
“On one hand, we feel some happiness for having arrived at this point,” he said, allowing an exhausted smile. “But we’re a little worried about what Trump is going to do.”
Since the caravan’s inception in Honduras in mid-October, the mass migration has bedeviled governments through the region and tested the humanitarian impulses of citizens along its route. The caravan itself has been struggling in fits and starts in recent days to make its way up the Pacific Coast.
On Wednesday, thousands of migrants were arrayed in clumps between the states of Nayarit, Sinaloa and Sonora, trying to catch rides in private vehicles or waiting for buses donated by regional governments, churches and civic groups to take them north.
Authorities in Tijuana said they expected between 1,500 and 2,000 migrants associated with the caravan to arrive by the end of the day on Thursday, with many hundreds more showing up throughout the rest of the week. That influx could possibly overwhelm the city’s resources, they said.
Another 2,400 migrants associated with two other separate caravans were in Mexico City on Wednesday, according to Nashieli Ramírez, the president of the city’s human rights commission. That group was staying in a vast temporary shelter set up in a sports stadium.
The main caravan started in mid-October in the northern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, quickly gathering size as it crossed into Guatemala. Moving sometimes on foot and other times by hitching rides in passing cars and trucks, the migrants occasionally slept in shelters but more often bedded down on the central plazas and sidewalks of small towns and hamlets.
In southern Mexico, the caravan, which included mostly young men but also many families with young children, began to show its fatigue. Some members fell behind to convalesce, remain in Mexico or return home. Others sheered off and moved ahead at a faster pace. At the same time, however, new caravans, inspired by the success of the first one, started materializing in Central America and heading north.
Early this month, during a several-day stop in Mexico City where the municipal government provided shelter and care to the migrants, the main caravan had a chance to coalesce once again, expanding to an estimated 5,000 or so. Refreshed and emboldened, it resumed its trek north last week.
The caravan’s leaders have been trying to hold the group together in the belief that there is safety in numbers and that a larger group sends a louder message about the plight of migrants and the poverty and violence many say they are fleeing.
But the size of the main group, which has waxed and waned over the course of the trip, has also overwhelmed towns along its path. Many governments and their citizens have risen to the challenge, providing migrants with food, water, medical care and secondhand clothes, and allowing them to sleep in public spaces.
That challenge now confronts government authorities and community organizations in Tijuana and the surrounding state of Baja California. And they are worried.
Tijuana, long a migratory gateway to the United States, supports a constellation of migrant shelters. But most have capacity for only scores at a time, not hundreds and certainly not thousands. And on Wednesday, migrants’ advocates said the shelters were already half full — days before the majority of the caravan was to arrive.
César Anibal Palencia Chávez, Tijuana’s director of migrant services, said Wednesday there were some 2,800 migrants not related to the caravan waiting their turn to apply for asylum at the United States border, with many of them filling the shelters. In addition, there were another 130 Mexican deportees, many also staying in the shelters.
Mr. Palencia said he had appealed to the federal government for assistance but had not received any.
“The federal government is not accompanying us,” he said outside a soup kitchen and shelter in downtown Tijuana. “It’s worrisome for a city to be left alone.”
Tijuana and the state of Baja California recently weathered what migrants’ and human rights advocates described as a humanitarian crisis related to another mass migration.
Haitian migrants, most of them traveling from Brazil, streamed into Tijuana in 2016 and 2017 in hopes of crossing into the United States. But a change in United States policy toward Haitian immigrants effectively shut the border to many, causing a backup in Tijuana.
At the peak of the crisis, at least 4,500 Haitians were stuck in Tijuana, with civil society groups and individuals assuming most of the burden of caring for them.
Now, with more than that number of migrants expected to gather in Tijuana and other northern Baja California municipalities in the coming days, the authorities could face a more severe situation.
“We feel that the same or worse is going to happen,” Mr. Palencia said. Mexico’s Interior Ministry declined to comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, the migrants who have arrived faced an array of difficult choices. First and foremost: Where to sleep?
Olvin Joel Lobo Reyes, 21, who said he left Honduras because of poverty and was seeking a job in the United States, arrived on Tuesday among a group of about 350 caravan migrants. He spent the night in a small shelter in downtown Tijuana that had no running water, and was planning to try his luck on Wednesday in Playas, a borough in western Tijuana.
As for achieving his goal of getting a job in the United States, he had not figured out how he was going to do that. He was planning to wait for the bulk of the caravan to arrive because his understanding was that the group would march to the border en masse “and see what Trump says.”
He, like many migrants, hoped that the force of the gesture would persuade the American authorities to relent and let them in. If that didn’t happen, he had a Plan B: to stay in Mexico and look for work. And even a Plan C: to sneak across the American border with the aid of a smuggler.
For now, however, he was going to bide his time and figure out the best move.
“Thanks to God, we made it,” he said. “All will be defined here.”