Will Migrant Caravan be Welcomed by Mexico’s New President?
The changing of the guard in Mexico brings increased scrutiny as thousands of immigrants sit in shelters on the border between the US and Mexico awaiting their fate.
Nearly 100 more of the Central American migrants who traveled across Mexico with hopes of reaching the United States have elected to apply for Mexican asylum in Mexicali and Tijuana this week.
The Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance began to process this wave of applications in their new temporary offices in both border cities of Baja California, where sentiments of tension and defeat have passed through the migrant caravan after more than a month of travel.
Hundreds of the migrants met United States authorities in a clash at the border in Tijuana last Sunday after a crowd attempted to force their way into the country before being dispersed with tear gas.
What began as a peaceful march to protest the bureaucratic delays of the US asylum process shifted when hundreds, evading a blockade erected by the Mexican police, attempted to climb over the first layer of fencing dividing Tijuana and San Diego.
US Customs and Border Protection officers released tear gas in two different attempted points of entry, and closed the border in both directions while they worked to push the Central Americans back. At least two dozen canisters from the tear gas could be seen on the Tijuana side of the border, according to reports by the New York Times.
In response to the clash on Sunday, Mexican authorities threatened to deport the migrants who were involved.
Will AMLO Continue a Softer Tone Towards the Migrant Caravan?
Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador will face the fallout of the clash when he takes office this Saturday, and will inherit the responsibility of thousands more who are still in transit through Mexico.
López Obrador, commonly called AMLO, has vocalized his accepting position on migration in Mexico, and encouraged immunity and acceptance of new arrivals upon the caravan’s cross from Guatemala into the state of Chiapas.
Over last weekend, AMLO and the US authorities went public with their idea that migrants applying for US asylum will remain on the Mexico side of border cities until their applications are approved, eliminating the practice of releasing applicants to their family members in the US.
The San Ysidro port of entry near San Diego processes roughly 60 to 100 asylum applications daily.
More than 2,000 of the original caravan of 7,000 applied for work permits and benefits offered by Mexican President Nieto when the caravan first crossed into Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico. Still, nearly 5,000 continued through varied conditions and over 1,000 miles to reach Baja.
The majority of those traveling north from Honduras or El Salvador have cited violence and persecution as their reason to migrate north to seek asylum. Others are economic migrants who have struggled to earn enough money through agriculture, but the US has disqualified these economic difficulties as a need for asylum.
Migrant Caravan Stretches Resources, Both Booed and Welcomed
The full caravan spent roughly five days in Mexico City, where they were hosted in a sports stadium. Services such as food and water, housing, and legal and medical advice cost the city $600,000, according to interim mayor José Ramón Avieva.
Other state governments have invested funds to provide transportation for the caravan, which helps them ensure that the highly publicized migrants move quickly and safely through their region.
In Tijuana, a sports stadium is once again being used to house thousands of the Central Americans, but the local authorities have already taxed their resources and overfilled the stadium capacity by more than 1,500.
The migrants received a mixed reception upon their arrival in Tijuana earlier this month. Many citizens protested their arrival, and the city mayor declared last weekend that taxpayers would not foot the bill to house them.
But if the discussed agreement to hold US asylum applicants is finalized by President-elect AMLO, migrants would spend further time under the care of the Mexican government.