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Tijuana Mayor declares 'humanitarian crisis' over migrant caravan

Central American migrants moving towards the United States, rest near El Chaparral port of entry at the US-Mexico border in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on November 23, 2018. (PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images)

In Tijuana, Mexico, some 5,000 migrants are in town, most gathered in a temporary shelter at sports complex, others all around town on palletes in the street, in sleeping bags under overpasses and bridges, in tents. They are there to cross the border to here. An estimated 2,000 additional migrants are on the way.

Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum, who was quoted by President Trump in a tweet almost a week ago as saying his city was "ill-prepared" for the influx, on Friday declared his town in a "humanitarian crisis" and is seeking aid from the United Nations.

"They have categorically omitted and not complied with their legal obligations," said the mayor at a press conference. "So we're now asking them and international humanitarian aid groups to bring in and carry out humanitarian assistance."

"I will not compromise public services," he said. "I will not spend Tijuanans' money, I will not bring Tijuana into debt now, in the same way, we haven't done so these past two years."

For years, and in particular the last few years following the humanitarian disasters not only to the south of Mexico but in Haiti as well. Tijuana has had a steady influx of refugees and migrants, most seeking to cross into the United States at the Tijuana crossing, the border's busiest crossing.

“Because of the absence, the apathy and the abandonment of the federal government, we are having to turn to international institutions like the U.N.,” said Manuel Figueroa, the city's social services manager according to the Los Angeles Times. The city has spent an approxiate $27,000 a day in shelter and care for the mostly Honduran migrants.

The majority of immigrants in the caravan are seeking asylum in the U.S., a process which can take months.

After his Thursday teleconference with deployed military members, President Trump, speaking to reporters, warned that the U.S. may shut the "whole border" down to all entry if the situatio in Tijuana is deemed to be out of the Mexican government's control.

Besides the additional caravan headed to Tijuana, more migrants are already gathered in the towns of Sonora and Mexicali. In Tijuana, the temporary shelter is more than full. Two days before the mayor decleared a humanitarian crisis, Edgar Corzo Sosa, Mexico’s national director of human rights, said that he "would describe the conditions inside as still manageable and somewhat in order." He said the temporary shelter was already well over capacity.

"If more people arrive, it’s just impractical to shelter more people here," he said, pointing out they were looking for additional space around the town. "The shelter is going to be overcome."

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