Tijuana's angry protests against migrant caravan give Mexico City ample reason to be nervous
Huge protests engulfed Tijuana over the weekend over the migrant caravan. They were loud, noisy, politically incorrect, and based on the photos that ran in the Mexican press, very large, at least a thousand participants. Tijuana, unlike a lot of the rest of Mexico, has a civil society culture, featuring everything from charity groups, to art museum lovers, to beach cleanup crews, to neighborhood watch groups, and well, the latter got busy and organized those protests. Here's a screengrab showing the size of the activity from Reforma, a top Mexican news organization. It's subscription-only, but I was able to view the vivid and image-packed video one time here:
Based on what's seen there in Mexican newspapers and video sites, those unexpected protests from Tijuana's residents have got to be making Mexico's rulers nervous. Because up until now, Mexico City's cynical game has always been to allow migration as a "pressure valve" to rid itself of undesirables by dumping them off to Uncle Sam, and then benefitting handsomely from their remittances. They don't benefit as much from Central American migrants as they do from Mexican migrants (who have tapered off in numbers), which is why they sometimes try to reinforce their southern border, but in general, they haven't done much about it. The idea has always been to just let them through and let Uncle Sam deal it. With the migrant caravan, they have even enabled the operation at many points in the journey, just to keep the migrants moving away from their immediate vicinity to make it north.
There's one problem: The Tijuana people feel dumped on. The migrant caravan may be a fun way to tweak Uncle Sam for Mexico City, but to Mexico's locals, who bear the burden of them in a country with a lot of problems of its own, that is playing with dynamite. Mexico City has long held contempt for its huge northwestern city, Tijuana. To them, Tijuaneros are just 'carne asada' people -- tacky, cowboyish, Americanized, and only there because they must be some kind of criminals. Border culture is always a little rougher, but NAFTA and the maquiladoras nevertheless have made Tijuana the wealthiest part of Mexico. Illegal migration is something that these days comes from the south, which is why Tijuana is not at all happy about being overrun by the migrant caravan, with the prospect of them camping out for six months.
And now the protests are being directed at the government by these angry Tijuana residents, which is Mexico City's worst nightmare. That's because these protests can only get worse and spread to other matters.
You can see the nervousness in the Tijuana mayor's statements, saying he's asked Mexico City for increased resources to deal with the migrants, who are expected to wait in line at a U.S. port of entry to file their asylum claims for about six months and in the meantime, are camping out like this.
And six months of waiting for angry, unemployed, uneducated and military-aged young men is likely a very big potential cause for unrest, too. The migrants were essentially told the streets were paved with gold in America and they'd be able to enter the U.S. instantly, an offer of course that was too good to be true, but promised with abandon by the caravan organizers to get their political mission off the ground through the power of numbers. The migrants are going to be disappointed and feel cheated. And you can bet there is going to be some discontent taken out on Tijuana from those quarters over the next weeks, particularly since they've already shown contempt for the city as it is, one of the things that triggered the Tijuana resident protest.
Via Google Translate, here is what El Financiero, a top newpaper in Mexico City reported:
Hundreds of residents of the border city of Tijuana went to the streets on Sunday to protest the massive arrival of Central American migrants who hope to seek asylum in the United States.
With flags and banners and shouting slogans demanded the departure of the members of the movement from the country accusing them of generating insecurity and violating Mexican laws.
"They are invaders! They are armed! Get out of the country," they shouted as they crowded into an emblematic city roundabout. The protest also involved some residents of the nearby US city of San Diego, California.
Thousands of migrants who have arrived in Tijuana have saturated the shelters, and many more sleep in the streets. Local authorities have asked for federal support to give them humanitarian aid and the services they need during their asylum process to the United States, which could take months.
"We can not allow the disorder that arose from how they entered the country, we are not anti-migrants, we want them to adhere to the legal regulations of Mexico," said Ernesto González, of the organization Prioridad a los Mexicanos.
"We want three things simply: that they ask for asylum or order their legal stay in Mexico, if not, that they be deported immediately, be sealed to the southern border and that they begin to address these issues as national security," he explained.
El Financiero also reports that Mexican authorities are increasing security barriers at the northern border:
In as much, authorities of Mexico and the United States increased the measures of security in the border. Since Saturday, large iron barricades were observed on the side of Tijuana in some of the vehicular lanes of the port of entry to San Ysidro, considered the busiest crossing in the world.
On the San Ysidro side, large portions of barbed wire were also placed on top of the steel wall that separates the two countries. At the Mexican border, it is unusual to close ports of entry to the United States.
Local authorities estimate that since Monday they have reached both Tijuana and another neighboring border city, Mexicali, about 6,000 Central American migrants, many of them accompanied by their children.
It's obvious they want this to stop. And if you take one more look at the Mexican newspapers, it will be pretty obvious why. Here is a screengrab of Reforma's offering of today's news videos:
Mexico has internal refugees of its own, in its south, and Reforma reports that they are being forgotten. That can only increase anger at the caravan migrants, who are an artificial, whipped-up construct, and getting attention and resources from the Mexico City government.
And they aren't the only ones - here is a screengrab of all of today's front page videos from Reforma:
They are loaded with refugee issues - there are the Guatamalan volcano victims, recent hurricane refugees and the 7,000 protesting families who are listed as 'damnificados' or victims. There is a water resources issue in the corner of the spread. There are the Guerrero and other southern state refugees listed in the photo above. Can you see why the migrant caravan, with its loud demands for resources and instant immigration gratification - with these people foreigners who pushed themselves in - generates such anger?
Mexico City, you have a problem.
Images credit: La Reforma video screengrabs