Migrants camped in Tijuana, Mexico, after travelling in a caravan to reach the U.S. are weighing their options after a California court blocked U.S. President Donald Trump’s asylum ban Monday for people who cross the border illegally.
Many said they have no intention of breaking the law, but were feeling pressure after anti-migrant protests in the Mexican border city and claims by Trump and the Tijuana mayor that the caravan harbours gang members and criminals, something they strongly deny.
‘We are not criminals’
Herson Cordonez, a 29-year-old Honduran, said the actions of a few migrants were tainting the image of the 4,000 to 6,000 in the caravan, not all of whom have yet reached Tijuana.
“We are not criminals, we are migrant workers,” Cordonez said. He said he was considering trying to get into Canada if the U.S. doesn’t want him.
‘You will not get into our country illegally’
On Tuesday, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen visited a San Diego Pacific Coast beach examining the newly installed razor wire wrapped around a towering border wall that cuts across the sand.
“This is a border wall with row upon row of concertina wire,” Nielsen said. “Make no mistake, we are very serious. You will not get into our country illegally.”
Nielsen said there were 6,200 migrants already camped in Tijuana and another 3,000 in Mexicali, about 180 kilometres to the east.
She said most were young single men who have no legitimate claim to U.S. asylum, adding that wanting to get a job in the U.S. or be reunited with family were not reasons to be allowed in.
Less than an hour before Nielsen’s arrival a man tried to swim into the U.S. but was quickly detained by border patrol agents. Five agents were on Jet Skis offshore along with two border patrol boats, while two drones on the Mexican side hovered just above the wall to get a view of the activity.
Some local police and residents have expressed concern that portraying the caravan as criminals has tarred its innocent members and exposed them to reprisals.
Anti-migrant protests in Tijuana
Some of the largely Honduran migrants were frightened when about 500 people in an affluent district of Tijuana staged angry protests Sunday against the caravan.
Dozens of the more radical protesters then marched to an outdoor sports complex near downtown where 2,500 migrants have been staying, sleeping on dirt fields and under bleachers.
‘People are going to cross’
Walter Matute said he has been deported from the U.S. twice and fears jumping the border would end his ability to get asylum. But he believes others will now take a chance in light of the court ruling blocking Trump’s ban on asylum for people who cross the border illegally.
“Yes, people are going to cross,” the 36-year-old Honduran said. “There are a lot of women and children. A lot are going to be up for it now.”
Sitting on a curb near the sports complex, a Honduran woman affirmed his assessment. The woman, who declined to give her name, said she was getting anxious and was considering crossing illegally to skip the long wait at the port of entry for asylum seekers.
U.S. border inspectors are processing only about 100 asylum claims a day at Tijuana’s main crossing to San Diego, and there was already a waiting list of 3,000 when the new migrants arrived, so most will have to wait months to even be considered for asylum.
With files from The Associated Press