By: Jorge Lebrija / Los Angeles Times
TIJUANA, Mexico — About a hundred police officers and elements of the National Guard and the Army evicted 381 migrants, mostly Central Americans and Mexicans, who had been staying for almost a year in an improvised camp that was set up at the entrance to a border crossing between the Mexican city of Tijuana and the United States.
The hundreds of tents, covered with bags and tarpaulins, that the migrants had placed in the surroundings of the “El Chaparral” port of entry in Tijuana, state of Baja California, were demolished with the help of bulldozers and trucks while its inhabitants loaded bags and suitcases their few belongings, clothes and toys, to be transferred to three local shelters.
“It was a relocation that had to be carried out at discretion to avoid any collapse,” the mayor of Tijuana, Montserrat Caballero Ramírez, said on Sunday, explaining to the press the reasons that led to the eviction of the camp, adding that the families were in a situation of “insecurity” especially for health reasons.
The group of 381 migrants, made up of 86 families, 24 single mothers with children, 33 men and three people from the LGBT community, was distributed among the Migrant Integration Center shelters, the Salesian project and the Migrant Sanctuary, the mayor specified.
Caballero Ramírez indicated that the mobilization of the inhabitants of the camp was carried out peacefully and that security elements participated to prevent the migrants from suffering any eventuality.
Likewise, the mayor ruled out that the decision to disarm the camp responded to pressure from the United States. “You know that the Tijuana authority is governed by its own legal norms,” she added.
“It’s inhumane because they did it at dawn and the children are asleep,” said Mexican migrant Guadalupe Omeca, complaining about the eviction from the camp where she lived for seven months. Accompanied by her three children, a grandson and her partner, Omeca confessed that she was afraid of being transferred to the shelter, and said that “sooner or later they are going to take us out because one of us brings children.”
Near the Mexican migrant was the Honduran Marleni Hernández, who also complained about the treatment of the authorities, and indicated that “they are not doing it right because they practically came to pick us up… as if we were criminals.”
“It’s hard, it’s not easy,” Hernandez said, his eyes brimming with tears and his voice cracking as he acknowledged that he felt very vulnerable because he was in a foreign country alone with his two young daughters asking for asylum.
The “El Chaparral” camp began to form at the end of January 2021, after the arrival of President Joe Biden in the government and the US authorities began to contain the flow of foreigners in compliance with policies that force migrants to wait. in Mexico their hearings in immigration courts and for public health measures related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The camp had become a headache for the authorities of the two countries because it was affecting traffic through one of the three pedestrian crossings towards the US city of San Diego, through which an average of 12,000 people used to pass. daily.
Activists and humanitarian organizations had expressed concern about the situation in which the hundreds of migrants, many of them children, were living in the makeshift camp.
Last year, the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico called on the Mexican authorities to guarantee respect for the human rights of the inhabitants of the “El Chaparral” camp and give priority to security and protection actions for said group.
The eviction of the camp generated questions on Sunday from some activists and defenders of migrant rights.
“Central American migrants and displaced Mexicans are human beings. They do not represent a threat to Mexico, ”said Wilner Metelus, president of the Citizen Committee in defense of Naturalized and Afro-Mexicans, on his Twitter account, rejecting the eviction of the camp, a fact that he considered a “shame”.