Mexicans Protest Migrant Caravan Arrivals at U.S. Border: 'They Are Invaders'

Angry protests broke out on the Mexican-U.S. border as local residents rallied against the arrival of thousands of migrants from Central America hoping to claim asylum in the U.S.

Hundreds of residents took to the streets of Tijuana Sunday to call for the removal of the new arrivals, claiming they would put unsustainable stress on local services, the Associated Press reported.

Around 3,000 members of the migrant caravan had already reached the border. Thousands more are expected to arrive in the coming weeks, and their total number could reach as high as 10,000.

The travelers have been on the road for more than a month and now face a long wait to have their asylum claims processed. Mexican and U.S. authorities have strengthened security at border crossing points as more and more migrants arrive.

On Sunday, protesters gathered at a statue of Aztec ruler Cuauhtemoc, around a mile from the U.S. border. Waving Mexican flags and singing the national anthem, the demonstrators chanted, "Out! Out!" and suggested the Central American migrants "are invaders! They are armed! Get out of the country," Reuters reported.

Esther Monroy, 58, told Agence France-Presse she was worried that the arrival of the migrants would lead the U.S. to close the border crossing entirely. "Most of us in this depend on business from people coming and going across the border," she explained. "If they close it, it will be [the migrants'] fault."

Counterprotesters stood nearby in support of the new arrivals, calling on the government to do more to assist the vulnerable migrants waiting for their turn to apply for asylum north or the border. The counterprotesters were far smaller in number than the anti-migrant demonstrators, AP reported.

Anti-immigrant protesters demonstrate before marching on an immigrant shelter on in Tijuana, Mexico, on November 18. Angry protests broke out on the Mexican-U.S. border as local residents rallied against the arrival of thousands of migrants from Central America hoping to claim asylum in the U.S. John Moore/Getty Images

Juan Manuel Gastelum, the mayor of Tijuana, warned that local authorities were not ready to handle an "avalanche" of new arrivals. The mayor warned that migrants would have to wait up to six months to be processed by U.S. authorities—a strain that might prove too much for his city of 1.6 million people.

On Saturday, Mexico's Interior Ministry said the government was sending extra food and blankets to help migrants in Tijuana. The local government has converted a municipal gymnasium and recreational complex into a shelter to keep migrants out of public spaces. This move has more than quadrupled the city's shelter capacity—from 700 in privately run facilities to up to 3,000 at the gymnasium.

President Donald Trump frequently mentioned the caravan in the run-up to the midterms, banking on immigration as an issue that could energize his base.

Despite Trump's aggressive rhetoric, which critics condemned as "racist," and his deployment of around 7,000 American troops to the border—branded a PR stunt by opponents—the Republicans suffered a heavy defeat at the polls. Though the party managed to cling on to its Senate majority, the Democrats took back the House by a comfortable margin.

The president was quick to pick up on Gastelum's warnings. On Sunday, he tweeted: "The Mayor of Tijuana, Mexico, just stated that 'the City is ill-prepared to handle this many migrants, the backlog could last 6 months,'" he tweeted. "Likewise, the U.S. is ill-prepared for this invasion, and will not stand for it. They are causing crime and big problems in Mexico. Go home!"