Tijuana Mayor Calls on World to Step in on Migrant Caravan 'Crisis'

Migrant children, part of the “migrant caravan,” sit in front of Mexican riot police outside the El Chaparral port of entry in Tijuana, Mexico, on November 22. Tijuana has declared the situation a “humanitarian crisis.” Mario Tama/Getty

The mayor of Tijuana has declared a "humanitarian crisis" over the arrival of more than 5,000 Central American migrants who have made their way to the Mexican border town, which sits across from San Diego, California, in hopes of claiming asylum in the U.S.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum called on the international community, including groups like the United Nations, to step in to address what his government repeatedly called a "humanitarian crisis" in a series of Facebook posts.

The mayor accused the Mexican federal government of failing to do enough to help the small border town deal with the influx of migrants that have arrived in recent days and said as a result, he was forced to appeal to the international community.

"Tijuana faces a humanitarian crisis due to a lack of support from the federal government," a post translated from Spanish from the Tijuana mayor's official Facebook page reads, asserting that now, the mayor must appeal for "humanitarian assistance."

Gastélum claimed that the situation in the border town was costing Tijuana more than 550,000 pesos, or $26,970 a day and said that he refuses to "compromise the city's public services" in order to support migrants taking shelter in the border town.

The mayor's call for international assistance comes as dozens of migrants separated from the caravan to hold a peaceful march to a border crossing in Tijuana, where they demanded better conditions for the thousands of people camping out at a sports center in the border town and pushed to be let into the U.S.

In a separate Facebook post on Thursday, the mayor's office published video of Municipal Police captain Victor M. Coronel Quintero warning migrants that they were putting themselves and their children at risk by demonstrating at the border.

Some of the protesters pushed within 500 feet of the U.S. border, while Mexican federal police maintained a barrier near a pedestrian crossing to the U.S., according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The migrants told the newspaper that they wanted to present themselves to U.S. immigration authorities for asylum and wanted Mexican authorities to address poor conditions for the thousands of migrants taking shelter at the sports arena in Tijuana.

"There are sick children here, and we are cold and hungry," Carlos Lopez, a Honduran migrant leading the group told the Union-Tribune.

Lopez said the makeshift shelter was inappropriate, particularly for children and women, with migrants being forced to live in muddy and cramped conditions at the open-air arena.

"The whole world is watching what is happening here," he said.

In addition to facing difficult living conditions, Central American migrants have also seen backlash from residents of Tijuana, with hundreds gathering for protests opposing the caravan's presence in the border town and demanding that asylum seekers "get out."

Read more: Donald Trump Signs Authorization for Border Troops Using Lethal Force as Migrant Caravan Approaches, Document Reveals

Last weekend, President Donald Trump appeared to shrug off concerns from Tijuana's mayor that the border town could not handle the influx of migrants, claiming that the U.S. "likewise" cannot handle what the president branded an "invasion" of asylum seekers.

On Thursday, the U.S. leader threatened to completely shut down the southern border if the Mexican government does not do more to secure its side of it.

He has also authorized military forces deployed to the southern border in anticipation of the caravan's arrival to use lethal force "if necessary" to defend the border.