A man on the U.S. side of the border, top, works on the border structure as a man looks on, at the beach seen from Tijuana, Mexico, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

A man on the U.S. side of the border, top, works on the border structure as a man looks on, at the beach seen from Tijuana, Mexico, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Migrants streaming into Tijuana, but now face long stay

U.S. border inspectors are processing about 100 asylum claims a day at the main border crossing with San Diego

Exhausted migrants in a caravan of Central American asylum-seekers napped on mattresses in a converted municipal gymnasium, while men played soccer and exchanged banter on a crowded, adjoining courtyard. A woman dabbed her crying, naked toddler with a moist cloth.

Nearly 2,000 caravan migrants had reached the U.S. border in Mexico’s northwestern corner by Thursday, with more coming in a steady trickle of buses. The city of Tijuana, with its privately run shelters operating well above their capacity of 700, opened the gymnasium and gated sport complex for up to 1,000 migrants, with a potential to expand to 3,000.

With U.S. border inspectors processing only about 100 asylum claims a day at the main border crossing with San Diego, prospects grew that migrants would be stuck waiting in Tijuana for months.

Francisco Rueda, the top deputy to Baja California state Gov. Francisco Vega de la Madrid, said about 1,750 migrants from the caravan had reached Tijuana so far.

“This is not a crisis,” he told reporters, though he agreed that “this is an extraordinary situation.”

READ MORE: Tired and angry, migrant caravan splinters in Mexico

Rueda said the state has 7,000 jobs available for its “Central American migrant brothers” who obtain legal residence status in Mexico.

“Today in Baja California there is an employment opportunity for those who request it, but it order for this to happen, it has to regulate migrant status,” he said.

The city’s thriving factories are always looking for workers, and several thousand Haitian migrants who were turned away at the U.S. border have found jobs and settled in Tijuana the last two years.

Police made their presence known in a city that is suffering an all-time-high homicide rate. A group of about 50 migrants, mostly women and children, walked through downtown streets Thursday from the city shelter to a breakfast hall under police escort.

As buses from western and central Mexico trickled in, some families camped inside the bus terminal and waited for word on where they could find a safe place to sleep.

Oscar Zapata, 31, reached the Tijuana bus station at 2 a.m. Thursday from Guadalajara with his wife and their three children, ages 4, 5 and 12, and headed to the breakfast hall, where migrants were served free beef and potatoes.

READ MORE: Trump vilifies caravan, says he’ll cut aid to Central America

Back home in La Ceiba, Honduras, he sold pirated CDs and DVDs in the street and two gangs demanding “protection” money threatened to kidnap his daughter and force her into prostitution if he didn’t pay. When he heard about the caravan on the TV news last month, he didn’t think twice.

“It was the opportunity to get out,” Zapata said.

Zapata said he hopes to join a brother in Los Angeles but has not yet decided on his next move. Like many others, he plans to wait in Tijuana for others in the caravan to arrive and gather more information before seeking asylum in the United States.

Byron Jose Blandino, a 27-year-old bricklayer from Nicaragua who slept in the converted gymnasium, said he wanted to request asylum but not until he could speak with someone well-versed in U.S. law and asylum procedures.

“The first thing is to wait,” Blandino said. “I do not want to break the laws of any country. If I could enter in a peaceful manner, that would be good.

To claim asylum in San Diego, migrants enter their names in a tattered notebook held together by duct tape and managed by the migrants in a plaza outside the entry to the main border crossing. On Thursday, migrants who registered six weeks ago were getting their names called. The waiting list has grown to more than 3,000 names and stands to become much longer with the new arrivals.

Dozens of gay and transgender migrants in the caravan were already lining up Thursday to submit asylum claims, though it was unclear how soon they would be able to do so.

Rueda, the governor’s deputy, said that if all migrants from the caravan currently in Tijuana were to register to seek asylum in the U.S., they would likely have to wait four months at current processing rates. For that reason, the state has asked Mexican federal authorities to encourage people in other caravans to go to other border cities.

There are real questions about how the city of more than 1.6 million will manage to handle the migrant caravans working their way through Mexico, which may total 10,000 people in all.

“No city in the world is prepared to receive this number of migrants,” said Mario Osuna, Tijuana’s social development director. He said the city hopes Mexico’s federal government “will start legalizing these people immediately” so they can get jobs and earn a living.

The caravan has fragmented somewhat in recent days in a final push to the border, with some migrants moving rapidly in buses and others falling behind.

On Thursday, hundreds were stranded for most of the day at a gas station in Navojoa, some 750 miles (1,200 kilometres) from Tijuana.

“We were dropped here at midnight … in the middle of nowhere, where supposedly some buses were going to come pick us up, but nothing,” Alejandra Grisel Rodriguez of Honduras told The Associated Press by phone. “We are without water, without food.”

After about 12 hours, seven buses began arriving to collect the migrants, Rodriguez said, but they quickly filled up.

“We would need at least 40 or 50,” she said.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Flora Northwest was taken to the Ermineskin residential school when she was six years old. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Ermineskin residential school survivor: ‘It just brings me back to the cries at night’

Discovery in Kamloops of remains of 215 children a painful time for survivors

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

File photo
Update: Leduc RCMP request assistance to identify armed robbery suspect

Leduc RCMP are searching for suspect involved in an armed robbery at the Leduc Giant Tiger.

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

Kobe Zembal (left) and Kale Rochette pose with some of the raised flower beds they have built. The flowerbeds are made from recycled plastic repurposed into plastic lumber. (Photo submitted)
Teens run successful plastic lumber products business in Bashaw

Pair of teenagers are learning first-hand about entrepreneurial spirit

Most Read