With Thousands of Migrants Pouring In, Tijuana Declares Humanitarian Crisis

By Zachary Stieber

After several days of being overwhelmed by thousands of migrants pouring into their city, officials in Tijuana have declared a humanitarian crisis and asked for international help.

There were already some 6,000 migrants in the Mexican border city on Nov. 19, and thousands more have arrived since then. “We are worried that we will lose control,” Tijuana Police Chief Mario Martinez told The Epoch Times.

Three days later, Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum declared a crisis during a press conference and asked for international groups to step in to help the city deal with the influx of migrants.

Gastelum said assistance is critical as the Mexican federal government ignores the issue.

Tijuana calls migrant invasion humanitarian crisis
Members of the Central American migrant caravan camp out at a municipal sports complex in Zone Norte near the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico, on Nov. 19, 2018. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
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Members of the Central American migrant caravan camp out at a municipal sports complex in Zone Norte near the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico, on Nov. 19, 2018. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

“They have categorically omitted and not complied with their legal obligations,” he said, reported the Arizona Republic. “So we’re now asking them and international humanitarian aid groups to bring in and carry out humanitarian assistance.”

He said the costs of feeding and housing the migrants are adding up, including approximately $27,000 for daily shelter costs alone, issues that have prompted widespread protests by locals against migrants.

“I will not compromise public services,” Gastelum told reporters from city hall. “I will not spend Tijuanans’ money, I will not bring Tijuana into debt now, in the same way we haven’t done so these past two years.”

The Baja California government has opened shelter space in Mexicali, 90 miles away, and there are at least 1,500 migrants currently in the city. That city is also coping with issues as more migrants stay there instead of continuing on to Tijuana.

Police in Tijuana
Tijuana riot police form a barrier between the migrant camp and protesting Mexicans in Tijuana, Mexico, on Nov. 18, 2018. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
Tijuana residents protest migrants
Mexicans protest the migrant caravan from Central America as riot police keep them away from the migrant encampment in Tijuana, Mexico, on Nov. 18, 2018. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Border Blocked

While some analysts and experts claimed the caravans would never reach the border, they were wrong. On the other hand, President Donald Trump spent weeks preparing for what he’s referred to as “an invasion,” referencing how the bulk of the migrants are fighting age males and how the caravans included hundreds of confirmed criminals and gang members.

Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sent thousands of troops to the border to support Border Patrol agents and Trump has issued orders to apprehend anyone crossing the border illegally and prepare to deport them.

The president noted that migrants were offered asylum in Mexico, but most ignored the offer, making any asylum claims for migrants entering the United States outside official ports of entry dubious. He then issued an executive order limiting the scope of legal asylum claims. A federal judge claimed that Trump didn’t have the authority to make the policy change and blocked the restrictions, but officials after the ruling advised the troops at the border to use lethal force if necessary.

Concertina wire at border port of entry
Several vehicle lanes adjacent to a pedestrian entrance remain closed at the San Ysidro port of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border. The crossing area was fortified by the U.S. Department of Defense early in the morning of Nov. 19, 2018. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
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The U.S. military patrols the U.S.-Mexico border fence at Friendship Park in San Ysidro, Calif., on Nov. 15, 2018. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

“The order today is not—we can get around that very easily,” Trump told reporters on Nov. 20, later noting that the Supreme Court will likely rule in his favor on the issue, overturning lower courts as it often has in recent years.

“As far as the troops, they are proud to be on the border. They are proud to be defending our nation. And we’re not letting people in,” he said. He also said that he appreciates the assistance that Mexico has been giving the United States at the border.

In a briefing on Thanksgiving to military officials, Trump hailed troops for hardening the border, saying: “We have a very powerful border now. We have the concertina fencing and we have things that people don’t even believe. We took old, broken wall and we wrapped it with barbed wire … Nobody is getting through these walls.”

“We’re fighting for borders. We’re fighting for our country. If we don’t have borders, we don’t have a country,” he added.