The first members of a caravan of Central Americans to reach the U.S. border slept in overcrowded shelters and in tents with a view of armed U.S. Border Patrol agents, with many saying they will wait for other migrants to join them before making their next moves.
Hundreds of migrants have arrived by bus in Tijuana since Tuesday, occupying the little space still available in the city's shelters and spilling onto an oceanfront plaza sandwiched between an old bullring and a border fence topped with recently installed concertina wire.
Some men climbed up on the fence to take a look at the other side Wednesday. Women and young children sleeping in tents on the plaza could see Border Patrol agents carrying machine guns in camouflage gear with San Diego's skyline in the distance.
The Juventud 2000 shelter squeezed in 15 women and their children, bringing occupancy to nearly 200, or double its regular capacity. Others were turned away. Several dozen migrants, mostly single men, spent the night at a beach that is cut by the towering border wall of metal bars
The first arrivals generally received a warm welcome despite Tijuana's shelter system to house migrants being at capacity. Migrants lined up for food while doctors checked those fighting colds and other ailments.
The first sizable groups of Central American groups began arriving in the Mexican city of Tijuana, which borders San Diego on the U.S. side. (Gregory Bull/Associated Press)
The bulk of the main caravan appeared to be about 1,800 kilometres from the border, but has recently been moving hundreds of miles a day by hitching rides on trucks and buses.
Mexico has offered refuge, asylum and work visas to the migrants, and its government said Monday that 2,697 temporary visas had been issued to individuals and families to cover them during the 45-day application process for more permanent status. Some 533 migrants had requested a voluntary return to their countries, the government said.
U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, meanwhile, visited U.S. troops posted at the border in Texas and said the deployment provides good training for war, despite criticism that the effort is a waste of taxpayer money and a political stunt. Most of the troops are in Texas, more than 2,400 kilometres from where the caravan is arriving.
Entering 'through the front door'
On Wednesday, there was no evidence of caravan members at Tijuana's main border crossing to San Diego, where asylum seekers gather every morning. The San Ysidro port of entry, the busiest crossing on the U.S.-Mexico border, processes only about 100 asylum claims a day, resulting in waits of five weeks even before migrants in the caravan began to arrive.
The Central Americans in the caravan are the latest migrants to arrive in Tijuana with the hope of crossing into the United States. Tijuana shelters in 2016 housed Haitians who came by the thousands after making their way from Brazil with plans to get to the U.S. Since then, several thousand Haitians have remained in Tijuana, finding work. Some have married local residents and enrolled in local universities.
Central American migrants wait in line for a meal at a shelter in Tijuana. (Gregory Bull/Associated Press)
Ilse Marilu, 24, arrived in Tijuana late Tuesday with her three-year-old daughter, having joined the caravan with a large contingent from San Pedro Sula, Honduras. She walked several miles Tuesday in a fruitless search for space in a migrant shelter before reaching the beach plaza. A Mexican couple dropped off a tent that her daughter and three other children used to sleep in as an evening chill set in.
She planned to stay in Tijuana until caravan leaders arrived and offered help on how to seek asylum in the US.
"We are going to enter through the front door," Marilu said, insisting she would never try to enter the country illegally.
Two Central American migrants walk along the top of the border structure separating Mexico and the United States in Tijuana. (Gregory Bull/Associated Press)
A few people pitched tents at the Tijuana beach plaza while most, like Henry Salinas, 30, of Honduras, planned to sleep there in the open.
He said that he intended to wait for thousands more in the caravan to arrive and that he hoped to jump the fence in a large group at the same time, overwhelming Border Patrol agents.
"It's going to be all against one, one against all. All of Central America against one, and one against Central America, he said.
"All against Trump, and Trump against all."
Migrants throughout Mexico
On Wednesday, buses and trucks carried some migrants into the state of Sinaloa along the Gulf of California and farther northward into the border state of Sonora.
The Rev. Miguel Angel Soto, director of the Casa de Migrante in the Sinaloa capital of Culiacan, said about 2,000 migrants had arrived in that area. He said the state government, the Roman Catholic Church and city officials in Escuinapa, Sinaloa, were helping the migrants.
The priest said the church had been able to get "good people" to provide buses for moving migrants northward. He said 24 buses had left Escuinapa on an eight-hour drive to Navojoa in Sonora state.
Migrants have hitched rides on the beds of trucks as they make their way through Mexico towards the U.S. border. (Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press)
Small groups were also reported in the northern cities of Saltillo and Monterrey, in the region near Texas.
About 1,300 migrants in a second caravan were resting at a stadium in Mexico City, where the first group stayed several days last week. By early Wednesday, an additional 1,100 migrants from a third and last caravan also arrived at the stadium.
Like most of those in the third caravan, migrant Javier Pineda is from El Salvador, and hopes to reach the United States. Referring to the first group nearing the end of the journey, Pineda said, "if they could do it, there is no reason why we can't."
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