Tijuana mayor: Caravan influx to last at least 6 months

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — With about 3,000 Central American migrants having reached the Mexican border across from California and thousands more anticipated, the mayor of Tijuana said Friday that the city was preparing for an influx that will last at least six months and may have no end in sight.

Juan Manuel Gastelum said there were 2,750 migrants from the caravan in Tijuana and that estimates by Mexico's federal government indicate the number could approach 10,000.

"No city in the world is prepared to receive this — if I'm allowed — this avalanche," he said during a news conference at City Hall. "It is a tsunami. There is concern among all citizens of Tijuana."

U.S. border inspectors are processing only about 100 asylum claims a day at Tijuana's main crossing to San Diego, creating long waits. Asylum seekers register their names in a tattered notebook managed by migrants themselves that had more than 3,000 names even before the caravan arrived.

Along the nearly 3,000 miles (nearly 5,000 kilometers) from the caravan's origin in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, to this city on the Pacific Ocean, the migrants have stopped in most places for only a single night, with some exceptions.

That overwhelmed small towns in southern Mexico in particular — but only briefly. The migrants' expected long stay in Tijuana has raised concerns about the ability of the teeming border city of more than 1.6 million to handle the influx.

Pleading for financial support from the Mexican government, Gastelum sternly warned migrants against criminal behavior, though authorities reported only seven arrests so far — five for drug consumption and two for disorderly conduct.

"Supposedly they are fleeing catastrophe, mistreatment in their countries of origin. How is it possible that they arrive here and, if they want, create disorder?" the mayor said. "It's not right."

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Migrants traveling in mass caravan break fence at Mexico border
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Migrants traveling in mass caravan break fence at Mexico border
A police officer helps a Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., as she storms a border checkpoint to cross into Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., ties a backpack from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., climbs down from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., hits the shield of a federal policeman after storming the Guatemalan checkpoint to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., jump and climb down from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala to avoid the border checkpoint as others look while queueing to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A police officer helps a Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., as she storms a border checkpoint to cross into Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A federal policeman gestures as Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., are being pushed by other migrants after storming the Guatemalan checkpoint to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., hits the shield of a federal policeman after storming the Guatemalan checkpoint to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., protects her child as a federal police reacts after migrants stormed the Guatemalan checkpoint to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., jump and climb down from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala to avoid the border checkpoint as others look while queueing to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., are pushed by other migrants after storming the Guatemalan checkpoint to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., jumps from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., climbs down from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala with the help of fellow immigrants to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., storm a border checkpoint, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., cries after stormed a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., topple a fence after storming the Guatemala border in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., jumps over a fence in the checkpoint between Guatemala and Mexico in Tecun Uman, Guatemala October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., storm a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., bleeds after he storms a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., storm a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A police officer helps a Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., as she storms a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., fall after storming a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., storm a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., storm a border checkpoint, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., climb a fence in an effort to enter Mexico after storming a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant child, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., cries next to a fence in the checkpoint between Guatemala and Mexico in Tecun Uman, Guatemala October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., yell as they storm a border checkpoint, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., react after storming the Guatemala border, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., yells as he storms a border checkpoint, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
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His language linking the latest arrivals to crime underscores how the caravan is already testing Tijuana's proud history as a melting pot for immigrants, a tradition that Gastelum also highlighted.

A municipal gymnasium and recreational complex that has been converted to a shelter was expected to register up to 1,000 people Thursday night but ended up housing more than 2,000, including more than 400 children.

Tijuana officials said they opened the shelter as part of an effort to keep migrants out of public spaces.

The city's privately run shelters are meant to have a capacity of 700.

At the municipal shelter, long lines formed for showers and meals of tuna casserole or noodle soup with coffee. Outdoor canopies covered rows of mattresses and blankets.

A woman singing Mexican "ranchera" music on a loudspeaker drew a small crowd, while men congregated in circles to play cards. Eighteen new portable toilets on a grass field made bathroom lines disappear.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who sought to make the caravan a campaign issue in last week's elections, took to Twitter on Friday to aim some new criticism at the migrants.

"Isn't it ironic that large Caravans of people are marching to our border wanting U.S.A. asylum because they are fearful of being in their country — yet they are proudly waving ... their country's flag. Can this be possible? Yes, because it is all a BIG CON, and the American taxpayer is paying for it," he said in a pair of tweets.

Migrant Ronald Calderon, who picked coffee beans back in Honduras, said he would seek asylum in the U.S. if he felt there was a 90 percent chance of success. But he figures the odds are long and doesn't want to risk being deported, so he hopes to find work and settle in Tijuana.

"I see that Donald Trump talks about us as criminals and killers, and I don't think an opportunity may present itself," said Calderon, 23.

Andrea Ramirez, 42, said that her siblings were killed by gangs in Honduras and that she registered her name Friday to seek asylum in the U.S.

"The only thing we want is not to go back to Honduras," Ramirez said.

18 PHOTOS
A day in the life of the migrant caravan in Mexico
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A day in the life of the migrant caravan in Mexico
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, takes a rest on the road, as she walks to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, rests on the road with her son Adonai, as they make their way to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File photo SEARCH "GLENDA ESCOBAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, plays with her son Adonai in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, sleeps in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, poses for a photograph with her children Adonai and Denzel in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, smiles as she rests in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, poses with her son Denzel, 8, as they rest in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, rests in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, rests on the road with her son Denzel as they walk to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, prepares the sleeping place after arriving at a makeshift camp with her sons Adonai and Denzel, in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Denzel, 8, holds his brother Adonai, 5, near their mother Glenda Escobar, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, as they walk to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, prepares the sleeping place after arriving at a makeshift camp with her sons Adonai and Denzel, in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, cries after talking on the phone, in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, rests on the road, on her way to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, poses for a photograph as she rests in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, takes a ride in a vintage car with her children Adonai and Denzel, as they walk to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Adonai, 5, son of Glenda Escobar, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, smiles as he rests in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, prepares the sleeping place after arriving at a makeshift camp with her children Adonai and Denzel, in Pijijiapan, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
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Also Friday, another caravan set out from Mexico City heading toward the border.

Gastelum, the mayor, wondered why the migrants chose Tijuana instead of other Mexican cities on the U.S. border, vaguely suggesting a sinister plot without elaborating.

"There is an intention to do things badly. There is an intention to prejudice Tijuana, and we cannot allow that," he said.

His comments marked a contrast to a more welcoming tone from other officials. Francisco Rueda, the top deputy to Baja California Gov. Francisco Vega de la Madrid, said Thursday that the state had 7,000 jobs available for any migrants who obtain legal status in Mexico.

Gustavo Magallanes, director of Baja California's migrant attention agency, said Friday that the state is doing the best it can at a difficult time and that, nearing the end of the year, agencies at all levels of government lack funds.

The governor had also asked federal officials to speak to their U.S. counterparts about possibly accelerating asylum processing, he said.

Magallanes said the governor had not ordered that more migrants be prevented from arriving in Tijuana, but said state officials were telling people in the caravan they might get processed faster in the city of Mexicali because the list in Tijuana is so long.

Magallanes said it was "likely" the migrants could be waiting in Tijuana for four to six months. The state government plans to push them to regularize their immigration status in Mexico so they can be offered work.

He said he could not speak for Tijuana's mayor but believed his comments had been misinterpreted.

"We are looking for the best way for these Central American migrants ... to be able to be in the best situation in this state," Magallanes said.

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Associated Press writer Christopher Sherman in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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