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  • Migrants stand in a line to receive cups of coffee while they wait for buses to take them to Tijuana.

    Migrants stand in a line to receive cups of coffee while they wait for buses to take them to Tijuana. | Photo: Reuters

Published 17 November 2018

Social media users quickly provided the mayor a nickname after President Donald Trump.

After a group of nationalist Mexicans yelled racist slurs and threw beer cans at members of the Migrant Caravan, the Mayor of Tijuana Juan Manuel Gastelum announced he would call for a referendum to gain popular support for limiting entry for asylum seekers.

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"Tijuana is a city of migrants but we don't want them this way. It was different with the Haitians; they had papers, were in order — it wasn't a hoard. I am sorry about the expression and Human Rights will come out against me but human rights are for the right humans," Gastelum said.

Later that day he announced that he plans to hold a referendum to ask the people of Tijuana if they want to continue allowing migrants in. The questions and date are not defined yet, but calling the migrants a ‘hoard’ Friday earned him comparisons with United States President Donald Trump.

If the outcome of the referendum favors the mayor’s position, he would “see what we can do to expel the ones who are already here and set checkpoints in Tecate so they can’t come in.”

His comments are particularly problematic because a group of migrants in Tijuana, who were sleeping on the beach, were attacked Thursday by a group of residents. Thankfully, on that occasion, another group of people and police officers surrounded the migrants — including six women and three children — to protect them from objects and trash being thrown at them.

In a previous interview with Milenio, Gastelum said some members of the caravan were “violent potheads” that put the lives of Tijuana’s inhabitants at risk, contributing to racist reactions in the city.

Some citizens of Tijuana have attacked groups of migrants and threatened them with “organizing for their expulsion.”

In a video being shared on social media, Roger, a member of the caravan, reacted to the discrimination faced in Tijuana.

“I think it’s unfair. We all deserve a chance to grow with our families, regardless of the place in the world we are,” he said.

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands trying to reach the U.S., pray by the border fence between Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico Nov. 15, 2018. Photo | Reuters

At least two demonstrations have been organized in Tijuana in solidarity with the migrants who are escaping conditions of rampant poverty and violence in their countries of origin, especially Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. An anti-immigrant group, however, founded a Facebook group to organize activities against the caravan, some people even calling for “defending the homeland by killing a Honduran.”

Meanwhile, a group of about 60 Central American migrants were arrested by Mexico’s Federal Police and immigration authorities (INM), who announced they would be deported to their country of origin.

The migrants were told that the government of Sonora would provide them with buses so they could reach the border city of Tijuana, but the buses came late and there weren't enough for the almost 2,000 migrants.

Witnesses say the INM and police officers forced the migrants out of the buses and arrested them. Maggie Nuñez, a Mexican volunteer who has been monitoring and helping the migrant caravan, decried, in an interview with La Jornada, that the Human Rights National Commission (CNDH) told the migrants to obey the officers instead of protecting them.

Nuñez said the health of the migrants is deteriorating, as they have been sleeping on the streets, suffering from extreme heat and cold, and without enough food and water.

When asked about the events in Sonora, the CNDH’s responsible official Edgar Corzo Sosa explained they are trying to help the arrested immigrants and negotiating their liberation.

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Earlier this month, President Trump declared the Exodus, or migrant caravan, an "invasion," decreeing a restriction on asylum applications for people who don’t enter the country through official ports of entry.

The U.S. has also deployed military troops to its southern border and suggested they will be allowed to respond with live ammunition by equating any rocks thrown to the force of bullets. The U.S.-Mexico border has also been reinforced with barbed wire.

The majority of the first Exodus, between 4,000 and 5,000 people, is trailing up the Pacific coast from the state of Jalisco. Others have reached the U.S. border, and another 3,000 are resting in the Jesus Martinez Stadium in Mexico, attended to by doctors and the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico.


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