The November 25 demonstration


Sunday, November 25 at 10 in the morning, about 300 migrant men, women, boys, and girls left the Benito Juarez Sports Center with the objective of performing a peaceful demonstration at the Chaparral Border Crossing, seeking to sensitize the government of the United States about their situation, as well as to request that it streamline the reception process for those petitioning for asylum. Upon entering the intersection of Avenida Alberto Aldrete and Avenida Revolucion, in the zona norte, the migrants encountered tens of members of the corps of gendarmes of the Federal Police, who closed the passage for them before they could get on the bridge that connects with this Border Crossing, the most traveled in the crossing from San Diego to Tijuana.

For about 40 minutes, the migrants stood there in the street, shouting slogans and reiterating that they were meeting in a peaceful demonstration. Several asked the grenadiers to let them pass. They called attention to the large number of reporters as well as personnel from the National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH). Furthermore, at least two military helicopters of the United States and two helicopters of the [U.S.] Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) circled very close to the protest, located a few short meters from the border fence.

When it appeared that the demonstration was about to disburse, several migrants began to run through the surrounding streets to the bridge custodied by the grenadiers. Far from containing them or exercising physical violence on them, the police went to one side and began to run with difficulty to where the migrants were headed, who began to cross International Avenue en masse. In order to keep anyone from being run over, personnel of the Municipal Police of Tijuana saw themselves obligated to stop vehicular traffic.For several minutes, men, women, boys, girls, babies, and carriages crossed this street en route to the zone known as El Bordo, in the canalization of the Tijuana River, many with the idea that, upon crossing the canal, they were in the United States. Thus were heard cries of, “we did it,” and “yes, we could.”At the same time, in the Benito Juarez Sports Center, the rumor spread that they had opened the gateway of the United States to let them pass. The helicopters of the military and the CBP continued to observe the scene from the sky.

Upon getting past El Bordo and noticing that they had not arrived in the United States, the migrants continued running, but now disbursed and in several directions. Several went toward the Chaparral Border Crossing, where personnel from the Federal Police immediately closed the Mexican border, while agents of the CBP did the same with the United States border. The traffic going toward the border crossing was paralyzed, and the lines of cars were detoured toward the Otay crossing, provoking the congestion of traffic and the anger of the drivers and the ambulant vendors, who came to attack the migrants with sticks until they ran away from there.

Tens more migrants tried to get out and cross the fence that separated the two nations, but they were repelled by agents of the Border Patrol, who launched sonic and tear gas bombs. Among the migrants were several babies, boys, and girls under five years of age, who were the most vulnerable victims of the poison produced by the gas. In this manner, the United States used force to make the Central American migrants remain in Mexico.

Some migrants ran toward the train routes, also located scarce meters from the border, in the area below the Libertad neighborhood.There several tried to cross the wall, and it is known from the Border Patrol report that at least 42 migrants were detained for these deeds.

About 2 in the afternoon, the migrants began to walk back to the Benito Juarez Sports Center, some of them with symptoms of poisoning,and several more visibly angry because of the treatment given on the part of the immigration authorities of the United States.

The press kept the event in the news for several days and the desperate images were visible throughout the entire world. President Trump endorsed the use of force on the part of the Border Patrol agents, who from his point of view saw themselves assaulted by the people trying to cross. Meanwhile, the Mexican government, sent a diplomatic note to the United States government, asking that they investigate thoroughly the events in which tens of migrants were repelled with gas. In the local region, Governor Francisco Vega de la Madrid and Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum made energetic pronouncements condemning the act of the migrant population,while demanding the intervention of the federal government in terms of financing and specialized personnel for the hosted population in the Sports Center. For its part, the commercial sector, both recreational and medical tourism of San Ysidro and Tijuana, has lamented in various communications the economic losses derived from this deed and, in general, the presence of the Migrant Caravan in the city.

It is significant that, after the deeds of November 25, a greater number of the members of the caravan began to take advantage of the program of return, as well as to enlist in the employment fair in order to seek work in the city.

From “La Caravana de Migrantes Centroamericanos en Tijuana 2018, Diagnóstico y Propuestas de Acción,” produced by the faculty of El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, December 4, 2018.  My translation.

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