The desperate and seemingly unstoppable journey of about three thousand migrants from Central America heading towards the United States has finally reached Tijuana, the final stop before the U.S. border. But the goodwill that migrants encountered on their long journey north from people offering rides and meals is now greeted with a chillier reception.
Instead, those arriving in the border city earlier this week were greeted by hundreds of Tijuana residents protesting their presence with angry chants of “Mexico First!”
Protest organizers echoed language used by U.S. President Donald Trump. “Mexico has always opened its doors to Central Americans to legal and organized migration but not to the illegal invasion that’s currently taking place,” said organizer Jesus Eduardo Burgos Gomez.
At one point during the protest, a group of residents tried to rush one of the shelters housing migrants but Mexican police in riot gear held them back.
“There’s too many people,” said protester Josefina Arangure. “We won’t be able to control it. A lot of people are going to stay and get jobs, others are just going to commit crimes.”
Protesters say they’re worried that this new wave of asylum seekers will overwhelm a city that has already dealt with its share of refugees from previous migrant caravans and from Haitians fleeing the devastation of the 2016 earthquake.
While the vast majority of those in the caravan say their ultimate goal is to get to the United States, U.S. border inspectors under the Trump Administration have only been processing about 100 claims a day at the Tijuana crossing. In the meantime, another thousand Central American migrants are expected to arrive in the next few days.
“They’re coming here with an American dream that doesn’t exist,” said Aranguer. “So unfortunately these people are going to stay here.”