Conditions In Tijuana Are Getting Worse For Those Waiting To Claim Asylum

credit: @IAmMarielena / Twitter / Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Things boiled over Sunday when groups of Central American asylum seekers in Tijuana, Mexico rushed the U.S border. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents responded by firing tear gas into the crowd of women and children. The asylum seekers had spent weeks in Tijuana as a last stop on their march to the U.S. border. The mayor of Tijuana declared the situation a humanitarian crisis and asked the United Nations for aid to deal with the approximately 5,000 Central American migrants.

Thousands of Central American migrants remain in Tijuana as they continue to try to seek asylum in the U.S.

Due to the large influx of asylum applicants, they may be there for months. Many are seeking asylum in the U.S. while others are seeking asylum in Mexico. The group of asylum seekers are fleeing economic instability and increasing violence in their home countries.

The San Ysidro entry point between Tijuana and San Diego is the busiest border crossing point in the world, yet agents at the facility can only process 100 applications a day. This has led Juan Manuel Gastelum, mayor of Tijuana, to declare the situation a humanitarian crisis. He says he won’t commit the city’s public resources to assisting the migrants and has asked for assistance from the United Nations.

According to the San Diego Tribune, the government of Baja California has treated 818 respiratory infections and provided 1,286 general medical consultations to asylum seekers.

There has reportedly been a pending agreement between both U.S. and Mexican governments that would force asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while the U.S. processes their claims.

According to the Washington Post, the Trump administration had made a deal with Mexico’s incoming president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to implement a policy that would have migrants stay in Mexico. This means that asylum seekers will wait in Mexico during the time it takes to apply for protection in the U.S.

While Mexico denied the report on Saturday, the news came out after a meeting between Mexico’s incoming foreign secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and other U.S. and Mexican officials. This could mean an agreement is still in the talks or can be modified in some way. The incoming Mexican administration will assume office December 1 which is critical in terms of timing when it comes to the situation at the border.

Applying for asylum is a legal process and the U.S. has been condemned for “unlawful policies” directed at the migrants.

Louis DeSipio, a professor of political science at University of California, Irvine, says that every migrant is legally allowed to apply for asylum, but it doesn’t mean they have the right to be accepted.

“The migrants have every right to seek asylum but what’s new and dangerous is the Trump administration trying to limit and make it harder for them to apply,” DeSipio said.

He says the tear gas incident over the weekend will only embolden the Trump administration to push forward with more stringent measures. Migrant caravans are nothing new but the issue has become a political talking point mainly because of the president’s constant attack on them. He has made baseless claims saying there are criminals in the caravan and even threatening to shut down the U.S.-Mexico border.

“This is all fitting into the president’s plan and will use it as evidence to justify sending troops to the Mexican border,” DeSipio said. “But closing down the border would have major implications going forward with Mexico in terms of legal entry and setting precedent.”

What’s next for the migrants waiting for their asylum claim?

After Sunday’s border clash, a number of migrants have opted to leave the caravan fearing their chances of seeking asylum are slim to none. DeSipio says many will stay and ride the process out considering they have no other options.

“These folks have no other option and it shows if they are willing to travel so many miles just to apply for asylum,” DeSipio says. “However long it’s going to take many will wait and some may risk their lives in the process.”

A new Mexican government and Democrats controlling the House of Representatives in the U.S. could complicate an already tense situation. President Trump continues to call for a border wall on the southern border and freshmen Democratic representatives ran their campaigns against the president’s tough line immigration stances.

“With the incoming [Mexican] administration and Democrats in control of the House, we’re going to see a showdown for funding for a border wall and the president doesn’t look like he’ll compromise,” DeSipio said. “At the end of the day what gets lost here is a tragedy. Many of these folks have a right to claim asylum but the president has essentially made that meaningless.”

This is a developing story. Check back with mitú for updates.


READ: Immigration Agents Launch Tear Gas Canisters At Asylum Seekers At US-Mexico Border

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