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Tijuana Protesters Shout at Migrants   11/19 06:19

   TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) -- Hundreds of Tijuana residents congregated around a 
monument in an affluent section of the city south of California on Sunday to 
protest the thousands of Central American migrants who have arrived via caravan 
in hopes of a new life in the U.S.

   Tensions have built as nearly 3,000 migrants from the caravan poured into 
Tijuana in recent days after more than a month on the road, and with many more 
months ahead of them while they seek asylum. The federal government estimates 
the number of migrants could soon swell to 10,000.

   U.S. border inspectors are processing only about 100 asylum claims a day at 
Tijuana's main crossing to San Diego. Asylum seekers register their names in a 
tattered notebook managed by migrants themselves that had more than 3,000 names 
even before the caravan arrived.

   On Sunday, displeased Tijuana residents waved Mexican flags, sang the 
Mexican national anthem and chanted "Out! Out!" in front of a statue of the 
Aztec ruler Cuauhtemoc, 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) from the U.S. border. They 
accused the migrants of being messy, ungrateful and a danger to Tijuana. They 
also complained about how the caravan forced its way into Mexico, calling it an 
"invasion." And they voiced worries that their taxes might be spent to care for 
the group.

   "We don't want them in Tijuana," protesters shouted.

   Juana Rodriguez, a housewife, said the government needs to conduct 
background checks on the migrants to make sure they don't have criminal records.

   A woman who gave her name as Paloma lambasted the migrants, who she said 
came to Mexico in search of handouts. "Let their government take care of them," 
she told video reporters covering the protest.

   A block away, fewer than a dozen Tijuana residents stood with signs of 
support for the migrants. Keyla Zamarron, a 38-year-old teacher, said the 
protesters don't represent her way of thinking as she held a sign saying: 
Childhood has no borders.

   Most of the migrants who have reached Tijuana via caravan in recent days set 
out more than a month ago from Honduras, a country of 9 million people. Dozens 
of migrants in the caravan who have been interviewed by Associated Press 
reporters have said they left their country after death threats.

   But the journey has been hard, and many have turned around.

   Alden Rivera, the Honduran ambassador in Mexico, told the AP on Saturday 
that 1,800 Hondurans have returned to their country since the caravan first set 
out on Oct. 13, and that he hopes more will make that decision. "We want them 
to return to Honduras," said Rivera.

   Honduras has a murder rate of 43 per 100,000 residents, similar to U.S. 
cities like New Orleans and Detroit. In addition to violence, migrants in the 
caravan have mentioned poor economic prospects as a motivator for their 
departures. Per capita income hovers around $120 a month in Honduras, where the 
World Bank says two out of three people live in poverty.

   The migrants' expected long stay in Tijuana has raised concerns about the 
ability of the border city of more than 1.6 million people to handle the influx.

   While many in Tijuana are sympathetic to the migrants' plight and trying to 
assist, some locals have shouted insults, hurled rocks and even thrown punches 
at them. The cold reception contrasts sharply with the warmth that accompanied 
the migrants in southern Mexico, where residents of small towns greeted them 
with hot food, campsites and even live music.

   Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum has called the migrants' arrival an 
"avalanche" that the city is ill-prepared to handle, calculating that they will 
be in Tijuana for at least six months as they wait to file asylum claims. 
Gastelum has appealed to the federal government for more assistance to cope 
with the influx.

   Mexico's Interior Ministry said Saturday that the federal government was 
flying in food and blankets for the migrants in Tijuana.

   Tijuana officials converted a municipal gymnasium and recreational complex 
into a shelter to keep migrants out of public spaces. The city's privately run 
shelters have a maximum capacity of 700. The municipal complex can hold up to 
3,000.

   At the municipal shelter, Josue Caseres, 24, expressed dismay at the 
protests against the caravan. "We are fleeing violence," said the entertainer 
from Santa Barbara, Honduras. "How can they think we are going to come here to 
be violent?"

   Some from the caravan have diverted to other border cities, such as 
Mexicali, a few hours to the east of Tijuana.

   Elsewhere on Sunday, a group of 200 migrants headed north from El Salvador, 
determined to also find safety in numbers to reach the U.S. Edwin Alexander 
Gomez, 20, told AP in San Salvador that he wants to work construction in New 
York, where he hears the wages are better and the city is safer.

   U.S. President Donald Trump, who sought to make the caravan a campaign issue 
in the midterm elections, used Twitter on Sunday to voice support for the mayor 
of Tijuana and try to discourage the migrants from seeking entry to the U.S.

   Trump wrote that like Tijuana, "the U.S. is ill-prepared for this invasion, 
and will not stand for it. They are causing crime and big problems in Mexico. 
Go home!"

   He followed that tweet by writing: "Catch and Release is an obsolete term. 
It is now Catch and Detain. Illegal Immigrants trying to come into the U.S.A., 
often proudly flying the flag of their nation as they ask for U.S. Asylum, will 
be detained or turned away."


(KA)

 
 
 
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