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The Migrant Caravan’s Lessons from South of the Border

| December 6, 2018

migrant caravan south of the border tijuana

Playing wall. (Shutterstock)

By Jasmine Aguilera

President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric hasn’t just infected U.S. politics. Now it’s made its way south of the border.


As a caravan of hundreds of migrants arrive in Tijuana, some residents there have started taking up Trump’s ideology. Juan Manuel Gastélum, the mayor of Tijuana, has been seen wearing a red “Make Tijuana Great Again” baseball cap. In an interview with Milenio News, he painted the migrants as a dangerous threat.

“Sure, there are some good people in the caravan, but many are very bad for the city,” Gastélum said.

And on November 19, a few hundred protested against the migrant caravan in Tijuana chanting “Tijuana first.” In the days before the protest, locals even attacked some migrants with stones.

These are the real effects of Trump’s rhetoric. Luckily, despite growing anti-immigrant sentiments, there are still many in Mexico who support and defend the migrants. This gives me hope.

Thousands of migrants are facing a humanitarian crisis in Tijuana, after walking more than 2,500 miles. Many simply want their chance to seek asylum in the United States, which is their legal right. But they may have to wait months for their chance.

Not only are the migrants dealing with unsanitary, impoverished conditions while they wait. Now they have to face the hatred that’s resulted from Trump’s presidency before they even cross the border.

other-wordsMigrant caravans have existed for decades as a way for immigrants to travel safely together to the United States. The media spectacle around the practice now obscures an important fact: Unauthorized migration to the U.S. has been declining for years.Last year, arrests at the border fell to a 46-year low.

But just before the midterm elections, Trump decided to pick on a caravan of migrants from Honduras, telling U.S. residents that they’re criminals to stoke fear — and to make himself the hero of the story.

Trump even deployed nearly 6,000 military troops to the U.S.-Mexico border while the caravan was still weeks away, making it clear to me that this was all just politics for Trump.

All the administration has done is put the migrants — largely women and their children — at further risk, even subjecting them to attacks with tear gas, a weapon so brutal that international law bans it in military combat.

Mexicans themselves, once the target of Trump’s racist campaign (remember when he called them rapists and murders?), have started repurposing Trump’s words to point the arrow at a new target: migrants trying to escape some of the most dangerous countries in the world.

I’m the daughter of Mexican immigrants who saw their own share of hatred when they arrived in the United States. It’s heartbreaking to me that Mexicans in Tijuana would now start turning their backs on these migrants, and it’s clear to me that Trump has influenced them. Just listen to their chants of “Mexico first.”

The situation is dire. But for all of the hatred that’s spewed out of this humanitarian crisis, there are hopeful moments.

While hundreds of anti-immigrant protesters took to the streets to express their anger, there were also people countering them with welcoming chants.

Many along the caravan’s path welcomed the migrants, offering food, shelter, and clothing. A new president in Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has also promised more humane treatment of the migrants, and plans to work with the Tijuana mayor to come up with a practical solution.

If anti-migrant Mexicans are now taking after Trump, I hope more Americans will now take after the Mexicans who chose to welcome the refugees. No matter your ideology, they deserve to be treated humanely as they act on their legal right to seek asylum.

Jasmine Aguilera is a freelance writer and reporter from El Paso, Texas. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, NowThis, and more.

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16 Responses for “The Migrant Caravan’s Lessons from South of the Border”

  1. Saarela says:

    Praying for a peaceful resolution to the sad situation of the poor around the world wanting a better life.

  2. Fredrick says:

    Not anti immigrant. PRO legal immigrant. Simply get in line, enter legally. Not a problem. Follow the law or change it.

  3. Michael Cocchiola says:

    Trump’s anti-migrant rhetoric is infectious…like Ebola. Apparently, the virus he spreads with his venomous Twitter spittle has infected the mayor of Tijuana just as it has spread through rural America. Fortunately, most Mexicans as do most Americans have a natural immunity to Trump. There’s a part of the human body that provides immunity from Trumpism. The brain!

  4. Agkistrodon says:

    @Michael Cocchiola. How many are YOU going to house in YOUR back yard. You see the Good people of Tijuana have NOT caught any Anti Migrant Rhetoric from Trump. They simply want THEIR laws followed and enforced, not unlike ALL civilized societies. THEY have families to worry about. When will YOU remove the door from YOUR house Michael, and Windows too, YOU do not need those, or are you anti illegal entry? No need to worry about protecting your family, the “good” people far outnumber the “bad” people right? It is very easy to speak from a place of great safety.

  5. hawkeye says:

    If any one wants to come into this country ,they should come in legally, thats pretty simple.

  6. Alphonse Abonte says:

    Yea, MC, Step up and take a few in. Talk the talk, but does not walk the walk. Worried about protecting your own? Let your liberal buddies help. Crickets. Trump is just like Obama, but he delivers on his promises for CHANGE!

  7. Bill says:

    Not to be insensitive, but I could care less about the caravan. Mexico failed to control the situation from the beginnings despite now has a real mess. The asylum line should be single file, 10-12 a day. It’s like feeding a dog at the dinner table.

  8. Alphonse Abonte says:

    Trump wants to protect the borders. Why is that anti-migrant? Do it legally. Talk about hate. Look at the rhetoric spewed towards Trump. Nothing but hate. Compares him to Ebola and Hitler. He is not of the regular political agenda. He is uncontrollable. He owes nobody. Political parties can not control him, like ones that came before him. The only way to destroy or tear down HIS agenda, is by hate. Look at ANTIFA. Bad people, doing bad things towards Americans. Trump is infectious, compare him to the revolution that took place around 1776. It is happening. Americans are finally waking up and want CHANGE. Promised before, never happened.

  9. Traveling Rep says:

    Agkistrodon, while on the subject, perhaps we should ask a few more questions of Michael.

    Like:

    1. How is he going to react when these illegal aliens he welcomes into his home decide they are not happy with their living conditions there?

    2. When they suggest that Michael should sleep in the guest bed – because they are going to sleep in the master, is that going to be a good arrangement? After all, they are poor illegal aliens who deserve him looking after them.

    3. When they decide that Mike’s significant other would look better with a shaved head and MS 13 tattoos all over their face, is that going to be okay?

    4. What about when they decide to tattoo the word CUCK on Mike’s forehead in pink? Still cool?

    You would have to be a total doofus to think that anyone in the US is somehow responsible for these nutcases in the caravan that think, because they walked 2,500 miles with the intention of invading our country, they are owed better living conditions in their host country (TJ, Mex). News flash: They put THEMSELVES in this position.

    The other fallacy here is that these people are asylum seekers. I think we all can agree: people in true need of asylum don’t carry the flag of the country they are supposedly fleeing, people in true need of asylum would have accepted the offer from the first stable country that extended it to them (Mexico). Imbedded reporters have proven time and again that the caravan is composed primarily (80-90%) men of working age, who themselves have said they want to come to the US for work – not to escape “dangerous living conditions” in their native country…

    Why it is that so many on the left are rallying behind these criminals is truly befuddling (ahem, votes). Why on earth can’t they see that Veterans and homeless Americans should have priority? Why on earth can’t they see that an influx of low wage earners simply decreases the amount of good paying jobs? Why don’t they realize the strain these people would put on our social and medical services system, without ever having paid into it?

    They are doing nothing to make their native countries stronger by leaving. If they truly care about their people and their country, they would stay and make it work, make a difference in their own community – instead of trying to burden ours.

    Guess what they do with their earnings, largely? Yep, they send the $ back to their country instead of stimulating our economy.

  10. Deb says:

    You come into this country legally, you complete the required paper work, get a work visa and work towards becoming a US citizen, that’s all there is to it. People who support illegal entry, I just wonder how many of these illegals will you feed, house for a long time. . People talk a big game, but when its time to back up their talk, thats what it is , its just talk.

  11. Michael Cocchiola says:

    Ag…I DON’T quote know what to SAY. My DOORS and WINDOWS have nothing to do with a VITRIOLIC alt-president and an ABUSIVE immigration policy. We have sufficient WEALTH in this nation to HELP people in NEED. Are we not a “CHRISTIAN” country? Is this not the SEASON of GIVING to those LESS fortunate?

  12. Fredrick says:

    @michael Cocchiola… If “We have sufficient wealth” why don’t we use it to help those who are already here legally, are already citizens. Have you ever been to areas of your own country (assuming you are a citizen) where people have nothing? Where they could use help? Areas who are to proud to ask for it? Take a trip through Appalachia and drop of some groceries sometime, maybe some Christmas presents for the kids who will get nothing. Apparently you would rather help out those who come here illegally. I am all for helping out those in need but charity starts at home.

  13. Agkistrodon says:

    Michael, I am not a Christian, but thank you anyway.

  14. Sherry says:

    Please educate yourselves on our current ridiculously confusing,and complicated immigration regulations. First of all it is NOT “easy”. There is no “line”. If you are NOT wealthy, or you are fleeing from danger, you MUST FIRST enter the USA at a border gate to apply for asylum. Again, refugees must be on US ground before they can apply for asylum. Even then. . . our current screwed up regulations require many, many hours of an immigration attorney’s expertise to even begin the paperwork to submit to the backlog of thousands of applications. . . which take years to process. . . because we don’t have enough judges or funding for the process.

    Please also STOP with the FOX talking points. Can’t you think for yourselves? Maybe not. It is not “either or.” . . yes, we have poor people already in our country. But, they can be helped by us, as well as “some”refugees from other countries. The hypocritical part of this is that the same “usual suspects” who are filled with fear and hate. . . also disparage poor US citizens, and DO NOT want to help them either. . . especially if they are people of color. The same people comment over and over again about the people FOX hates. . . “them”, “the other”, . . . all those who are not “lily white”, all those who “think differently”, all those who “love differently”, all those who are “progressive”, all those who are “open minded”, all those who care about “climate change” and the “environment”. . . . and on and on and on.

    I would like to know precisely what you “conservatives” are FOR. . . when it comes to anything outside your own “selfish”. . . “self-centered”,. . . GREED. Anything that is kind and caring of “other” human beings at all?

  15. Agkistrodon says:

    @Sherry. Okay I’ll try and educate myself in the manner YOU see fit. No, On second thought, I choose to use my own brain and my advanced education to decide what to believe for MYSELF not for YOU.

  16. Richard says:

    I guess all of those “talking points” by the other networks aka MSM must FIT your narrative and rhetoric, Eh! So then if that’s true why is that FOX is the most watched Cable News Network? Maybe they are doing something that the other networks have no clue about and their ratings (aka people watching them) are so HIGH.

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