TIJUANA, Mexico—More than 300 Tijuana residents took to the streets on Nov. 18 in a rowdy protest against the migrant caravan—which they say forced its way into their country and is demanding to be looked after, even complaining about the food.
Magdalena Baltazar, 40, held a sign saying “Mexicans love beans” after hearing that the migrants, from Central America, had been complaining about the food Mexico has offered them.
“They complained that the tacos, the tortillas with beans, are food for animals,” Baltazar said through a translator. “It is actually one of the foods that people here in Mexico have at home. How is it possible that immigrants come here to criticize Mexico’s food?”
Baltazar wants the Mexican government to do more.
“If they came here to be supported, then they should be returned to their country. Tijuana can’t handle so many people coming just to be supported,” she said. “If they come here for work, then they should look for [work].”
Rodrigo Melgoza held a handwritten sign saying, “Immigrants yes, illegals no.”
“Because I think everyone has the right to create a life in a new country but they have to do it the legal way,” he said. “They should not violate the sovereignty of all Mexicans and of Mexico like these people did there on the border.”
Melgoza said he wants an explanation from the Mexican government as to why the caravan was allowed to march virtually unimpeded right through Mexico to Tijuana.
“Who is financing this? How did they get all the way here, with privileges, food, transportation, and help?” he said.
“And second, let them know we are not going to allow just anyone who comes in an illegal manner to threaten us or simply stay and demand things here in Mexico.”
Melgoza said that although the caravan members said their intention is to gain asylum in the United States, he doesn’t believe President Donald Trump will allow it, if they don’t do it legally.
The Mexican government offered asylum to all caravan members two weeks ago, however most refused and continued to head towards the U.S. border. Currently more than 2,400 caravan members, mostly from Honduras, are bunking down in tents and cots at a municipal sports complex in the Zona Norte district of Tijuana, located adjacent to the San Ysidro border crossing.
Thousands more migrants are expected in the coming days.
Elvia Villegas said she admires Trump, “because he is defending his borders.”
“Not like here in Mexico, where politicians are corrupt and do not defend their borders,” she said.
Villegas wants the Mexican government to deport the migrants.
“They come to offend the Tijuanans and we won’t permit it. I am from Tijuana, I have children from Tijuana, and I am going to defend Tijuana,” she said.
Things became heated as the protesters marched toward the migrant camp, but no violence broke out. Protesters were met by rows of police in riot gear, who blocked the street leading to the migrants.
Leslie Espinoza, 33, said she wants the migrants to return home because they are disrespecting Tijuana and Mexico.
“They are breaking the laws, starting from the national anthem. The national anthem says they have to respect our homeland, so it’s mainly that,” she said. “They are crossing our borders with violence.”
A month ago, on Oct. 19, the caravan broke through a fence on the Guatemalan–Mexican border and then attempted to push their way through Mexican police across a bridge into the Mexican town of Ciudad Hidalgo. The migrants were repulsed, and the government offered to let 100 to 200 migrants through each day to apply for asylum. Some of the migrants, impatient with the wait, responded by wading across a shallow river.
Guadalupe Arangure, who added some drama to the protest with his rumbling motorbike, said it’s wrong to think it’s a migrant caravan.
“Don’t get it twisted—this is an invasion,” he said. “Once you cross the borders, once you went through those borders with violence it became an invasion.”
Arangure said he supports Trump for securing the U.S. border.
“He’s got to defend his country. We’ve got to defend ours.”
Arangure said the protesters were not out to cause any violence, but to let the migrants know they are not welcome after breaking through the border.
“People have been helping them all along their journey and the only thing they have done is left a mess, complained,” he said. “They get more help than our people. Our people are hungry too, you know.”
Espinoza said she is concerned that many Tijuanans already live in poverty and the unemployment rate is high. And that now the government is paying for the thousands of migrants.
“They get free accommodation, they get health care,” she said.
“I have family members who have been waiting for a doctor’s appointment for over a year, because it’s a public hospital. So other people come to invade our city, and they have all the benefits that we as Mexicans don’t have.”
Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum said in a statement on Nov. 16 that the Honduran ambassador assured him that the Honduras government will pay for the basic humanitarian needs of the migrants while they are in Mexico.
The Honduran ambassador also told the mayor that he will set up a mobile consulate to start identifying all the migrants.
It is unclear what the migrants intend to do. Customs and Border Protection officials have said the San Ysidro port of entry into the United States can only handle 100 asylum claims per day.
It is also unlikely that many of the members of the caravan will be eligible for asylum. Around 75 percent are males, many of whom have expressed a wish for a better life and job in the United States. Several men with whom The Epoch Times spoke said they had left their wives and young children at home in Honduras while they sought out a better life.
The protesters said this influx of Central American migrants is different from what was seen in 2016, when thousands of Haitians came to claim asylum.
This group had moved to Brazil after a massive earthquake in Haiti in 2010. When work dried up in Brazil, they attempted to enter the United States through Tijuana. Now they have settled in Tijuana, becoming part of the local economy.
Many of the protesters said they supported the Haitians because they were respectful and asked permission for asylum.
Kimberly Hayak contributed to this report.