TIJUANA, Mexico — Their black T-shirts along with furtive glances gave them away.
Eschewing introductions, the strangers — clued in to the clandestine meeting via a WhatsApp chat along with directed to coloring-coordinate their outfits — stood in a circle near a movie theater in a strip mall, riffing on ways to stop the swell of migrants arriving at This kind of border city.
“Let’s go make sure they don’t get permission to stay, along with then let the witch hunt begin,” Alejandra Garcia told the tiny crowd.
Over the next hour, with the sky already jet-black, the group grew to 11 people, including a woman pushing a stroller; several housewives; along using a factory worker earning minimum wage. They lowered their voices when describing the bulk of migrants traveling with the caravan as “ingrates” along with “animals,” yet raised their voices to criticize the Mexican government for having escorted the caravan as This kind of moved up through the country.
They were a tiny part of a growing backlash to the caravan in which’s taking root in WhatsApp groups along with Facebook pages. As the caravan approaches, their incendiary rhetoric increases, with members calling for the group’s deportation — or worse. along with using a long wait ahead of the migrants, the odds of a confrontation rise with every angry message sent.
Afterward, several within the group went to Playas, a borough in western Tijuana where another anti-caravan contingent was trying to forcefully evict migrants. They taunted the Central Americans, chanting “Stop coming!” along with singing the Mexican anthem. Police had to step in between the two groups.
“I understand Trump. I don’t love him yet I know what This kind of’s like to have to defend your country,” Garcia, 52, told BuzzFeed News.
For weeks, the growing presence of troops on the US border had worried members of the migrant caravan, which became a major rallying cry for President Donald Trump’s nationalist base along with an unprecedented diplomatic along with logistical challenge for the Mexican government. today, migrants face a brand-new threat: residents of Tijuana, the final stop in their 2,700-mile-long journey, who are organizing protests against the caravan along with even threatening them — or anyone who supports them — with physical violence.
Several Facebook along with WhatsApp groups advocating for the caravan’s deportation have sprung up within the month since the migrants set out by Honduras, underscoring escalating anti-immigrant sentiment in Northern Mexico. The violent language used against Central Americans in these groups echoes in which used by Trump supporters within the US, referring to the caravan as an “invasion” along with issuing a call to arms in defense of borders.
The pushback against the caravan in Tijuana has brought long-standing racism toward Central Americans neighbors to the surface, highlighting the incongruous attitude of Mexicans who demand better treatment within the US while discriminating — along with often times victimizing — migrants who move north through the country.
Inside the chat, people have felt free to give their unfiltered views:
“These people are a Cancer in which signals the end of Mexico.”
“I’m asking the men here to defend their women along with children… Since the majority of Central Americans who’ve arrived are men, violent thefts will start any moment today.”
“Plagues are confronted with venom. along with [bullets] are the venom here. Hondurans are equal to gonorrhea.”
various other messages in a WhatsApp group entitled “Citizen’s Blockade” — which BuzzFeed News had access to after joining a related, closed Facebook page — included suggestions to deliver pizzas along with hamburgers filled with pesticide to migrants along using a call to burn down one of the biggest shelters within the city. The group has more than 250 participants.
For sore-footed migrants who have been walking or hitchhiking, the threats by Tijuana residents add injury to insult after days of hardening measures by US authorities to impede their entry, including closing down lanes at several ports of entry along with hanging razor wire on border fences.
The caravan grew by about 500 people to over 7,000 within days of its mid-October departure. Guatemalans along with Salvadorans joined the group as This kind of made its way north, fleeing stagnant economies along with gang violence, both of which have become a staple within the region. At least three more caravans have formed along with followed since, underscoring a shift in regional migratory trends — a response to high smuggler fees along with the risk of theft, extortion, rape along with homicide along the trail.
The original caravan has encountered violence by Mexican authorities along the way — including tear gas by police as they tried to tear down the gate at the Guatemalan border — yet also countless examples of goodwill by Mexicans who have donated clothes, cooked along with distributed tamales along with tortas, along with offered rides in their cars along with trucks to scores of strangers.
yet as the caravan makes its final approach to the US border, This kind of altruism appears to have run dry.
A Facebook group called “Tijuana Against the Migrant Caravan,” which has more than 6,700 members, posted a warning for newcomers: “People who publish messages calling members xenophobic, don’t understand the purpose of This kind of group, along with they will be removed along with blocked,” one of the administrator’s wrote This kind of week.
Members posted photographs identifying individual migrants along with video of the confrontation in which took place Wednesday night near at Playas.
Detentions along with deportations of Central Americans in Mexico have increased dramatically since 2014, after a large wave of undocumented minors entered the US, prompting former president Barack Obama’s administration to characterize the situation at the border as a humanitarian crisis.
Under pressure by the Trump’s administration to stop the caravan, Mexican authorities have so far processed more than 2,900 refugee requests since the group first entered Mexico on October 19. President Enrique Peña Nieto has also offered migrants temporary jobs, though many members of the caravan, distrustful of Mexican authorities, have rejected the program.
Migrants will likely have to wait for weeks in Tijuana to be allowed to present their asylum cases to US immigration authorities. There are already dozens of people waiting on the bridge, a tiny portion of the 800 who’ve already arrived, along with only a handful of people are being processed each day. As many as 5,000 migrants are likely to make This kind of to Tijuana within the coming days, their fate within the city more uncertain than ever.
Anti-caravan groups announced a protest on Sunday, along with said they were expecting at least 3,000 people to attend. yet with the big event still three days away, the pace of the messages only increased along with the ire deepened.
“I feel like leaving some migrants like strainers,” one member of “Citizen’s Blockade” said in a voice note to the group while others suggested assembling molotov cocktails along with getting bats ready Wednesday night. “Or give them poisoned food.”
Another gave a warning: don’t engage the migrants physically. “They are carrying many diseases in their blood — HIV, tuberculosis — along with This kind of’s not convenient for Tijuanenses, for Mexicans, to be fighting with those scourges.”
At the strip mall, the black-clad group exchanged rumors — a teenager had been killed by a group of migrants nearby, the migrants had yelled “Mexicans are dogs!” on their way into the country — along with discussed their options. The most dire of them? Leave Tijuana.
“I don’t have grandchildren yet yet when I do,” said Garcia, “I don’t want them to grow up around these kinds of people.”