Saturday I wrote about Tijuana’s mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum who reacted to the sudden influx of at least 2,000 members of the migrant caravan by calling it a “tsunami” and described some of the members as “bums.” But the mayor is not alone. Sunday there were protests in which residents of Tijuana marched around the city calling for the migrants to leave. Suddenly, a lot of Mexicans sound a bit like President Trump. From the LA Times:
“This is an invasion!” shouted Luis Alexis Mendoza, 30, a bespectacled carpenter who was among scores of protesting Tijuana residents staging an anti-caravan demonstration Sunday that culminated in a standoff with riot police on the street where more than 2,000 Central Americans were being housed in a sports facility. “We demand respect! We demand that our laws be followed.”
He and others denounced caravan members — mostly Honduran nationals — as “criminals,” “bums,” and “freeloaders,” among other negative characterizations used to describe the Central Americans…
Ironically, many protesters echoed the complaints of President Trump, who denounced the caravan as an “invasion” and a threat to national security.
“We are not with Trump — he has spoken horribly about Mexicans — but he is right in that every country has a right to defend its borders,” said Alejandra Garcia, 52, a mother of two who was among about 150 gathered as the protest began along a major boulevard here featuring a statue of Cuauhtemoc, the last Aztec emperor. “This is not about xenophobia. We are not against immigrants. Most everyone in Tijuana came from somewhere else. But people must come here in an orderly fashion and not try and make trouble.”
NBC News has more:
Some protesters said the Mexican government should follow President Donald Trump’s lead and adopt tougher border policies.
“He’s defending his border, unlike our president,” said protester Elvia Vijeras. “Now there will be more violence in Tijuana.”
Francis Belmontes, who brought his two children to the protest, said his seven-year-old daughter told him that some of the migrants were urinating outside of her school and asking for money.
He said not all the migrants were mothers seeking a better life for their children, and he had seen young men with tattoos who he believed were gang members. He said he worried for his children’s safety.
“It’s chaos,” he said. “We’re sounding like Trump’s America here in Mexico.”
And this is still just the beginning because not even half of the migrants have made it to Tijuana yet. In the coming week, another 5,000 to 7,000 are expected to arrive, joining 3,000 migrants who were not part of the caravan but were already waiting at the port-of-entry. The Associated Press suggests frustration over tightening border control may have been part of what motivated the protests:
The United States closed off northbound traffic for several hours at the busiest border crossing with Mexico to install new security barriers on Monday, a day after hundreds of Tijuana residents protested against the presence of thousands of Central American migrants.
The U.S. also closed one of two pedestrian crossings at the San Ysidro crossing in a move apparently aimed at preventing any mass rush of migrants across the border…
Such inconveniences prompted by the arrival of the migrant caravan may have played a role in Sunday’s protests, when about 400 Tijuana residents waved Mexican flags, sang the Mexican national anthem and chanted “Out! Out!” referring to the migrant caravan that arrived in the border city last week.
If protesters were doing this on the U.S. side of the border, they would immediately be deemed racists and xenophobes trying to promote white supremacy. But none of the people protesting in Tijuana are white supremacists, obviously.
I think the language used by some of the protesters is a clue to what is really going on here. Calling the migrants “bums” and “freeloaders” isn’t about race, it’s about free riders which is what most of these people are at the moment. Since the caravan started, people have been given free food and water by people along the way. That was possible because, as large as the caravan was, it was just passing through. The only place where it remained for more than a day was Mexico City, which has nearly 9 million people living in it and can manage a crowd for a few days.
Tijuana is different. For the foreseeable future, this is the caravan’s final stop. Most of these people aren’t moving on to the U.S. anytime soon given that the U.S. is only taking about 100 asylum claims per day. That means it falls on the city to house and feed all these people for the next six months, at least. Tijuana’s sports complex has been transformed into a giant shelter and someone is paying to feed all these people twice a day. There aren’t enough bathrooms and some of the newcomers are not behaving as good guests despite the fact that no one invited them.
I think that’s why people in Tijuana are agitated. A sizeable group of people has shown up uninvited and started demanding they be taken care of by the people who call the city home. People have a natural bad reaction to free riders who coast along on the effort of others. For the moment, that’s what the caravan represents.