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Violence Breaks Out at Tijuana Border as Migrant Caravan Arrives

Hundreds of people who arrived in Tijuana with the first wave of the migrant caravan planned to spend Wednesday night in a makeshift camp by the Pacific Ocean, steps from the tall border fence that separates Mexico and the United States. But those plans shifted in the evening, after local and state officials opened a temporary shelter – and about 300 local residents gathered by the encampment to demand the migrants leave the upscale Playas de Tijuana neighborhood and go to the facility.

During a confrontation that lasted more than three hours, area residents sang the Mexican national anthem and waved Mexican flags. They chanted “Mexico! Mexico!” each time a bus transporting migrants left the beach for the temporary shelter. Mostly women and children went to the shelters, while young men from the caravan said they were determined to stay together at the beach and await the estimated 2,000 more caravan members on their way to Tijuana.


Mexican residents of Playas De Tijuana confronted Honduran migrants who had set up a makeshift camp at “Friendship Park” in Playas De Tijuana. The Mexican residents demanded that the the migrants leave the area and threaten the migrants if they did not leave. Federal and Municipal Mexican police kept both groups separated and some incidents of violence broke out throughout the night.

Pushing, shoving, kicking and a couple of blows broke out between masses of residents and migrants, illuminated by the crescent moon and mobile light towers, set up by authorities on the beach on the U.S. side of the border. More than three dozen municipal and federal police watched, separating people and trying to prevent the situation from devolving into fistfights and chaos.

After midnight, residents assaulted journalists, injuring at least three, according to reporters on the scene.

By Thursday, the migrants had left the beach and joined hundreds of caravan members at a temporary shelter at the Benito Juarez sports complex. The complex has room for 3,000 people to sleep on thin mattresses on the floor of an indoor basketball court, in large, communal tents and in individual camping tents, according to a local official.

“The message to the migrant population is very clear,” said Francisco Rueda Gómez, secretary-general of the state of Baja California. “We are providing them with humanitarian support, health care and food, however the need to take into consideration the rules of the shelters so they can coexist in harmony with the local population.”

Rueda Gómez said it will cost about $4 million to care for the migrants for two months, including providing food and medical care. He said the state government can only afford to fund this work for 10 days at the most, so he has asked the federal government for support.

The violent night Wednesday marks the latest in rising tensions, as waves of migrants arrive in the border town south of San Diego, culminating a month-long journey across Mexico.

The conflict was foreshadowed earlier in the day at the beach. By the afternoon, two large groups of migrants – a total of about 750 people – had arrived in Tijuana. The city’s migrant shelters had limited space when the caravan arrived. A large portion of the migrants said they didn’t want to be separated, opting instead to sleep at the beach.

On Wednesday evening, city and state officials announced they were opening a temporary shelter at the Benito Juarez sports complex, where 360 migrants could sleep on thin mattresses in an indoor basketball court. They started offering buses from the beach to the shelter around 6 p.m.

Violence Migrants

Meanwhile, Playas de Tijuana residents marched through the neighborhood to call for security and demand the migrants go to the shelters.

By 8:30 p.m., hundreds of residents and migrants had congregated by the beach, with local residents demanding the immigrants leave the public space at the beach.

“This is not an appropriate place for them,” one local resident said. “There are appropriate places for them.”

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