Through social networks such as WhatsApp and Facebook, some citizens of Tijuana have sparked hate against migrants arriving in the city to seek asylum from the United States government.
It all started with a Facebook page called “Tijuana against the migrant caravan,” which promotes the rejection of Central Americans arriving as part of a caravan that started its journey last October in Honduras. People from El Salvador, Guatemala, and even Mexico have also joined the migrant exodus. Five days after it was created, the group already had 4,000 followers. Through social media, local citizens are requesting for foreigners to be taken out of the city, displaying their hatred with slogans such as “Defend your country, kill a Honduran.” The group members argued that migrants were criminals, and that there were drug addicts, gang members, and even murderers among their ranks.
Shortly after, an anonymous WhatsApp group was created to share explicit xenophobic messages that promoted violence against migrants. Last Wednesday, the hate comments had their effect. At 9:00 PM –local time-, around 200 citizens broke into a place where some of the migrants were sleeping on the sand, right next to the wall that separates Tijuana from the United States. Hostilities began with insults and threats, after which they moved on to throwing rocks until staff from the Beta Group and elements of the Federal Police showed up with buses to remove the Central Americans from the scene.
“Get the f… out of here,” shouted the citizens to scare away the women and men from the migrant caravan in Tijuana. Mexico’s Minister of Interior, Alfonso Navarrete Prida, admitted that the events had raised concerns in the federal government, where some fear an open clash will occur should the migrant caravan attempt to enter the United States by force, just like it did in Mexico’s southern border a few weeks ago. Their concerns are partly due to the United States’ “extraordinarily hostile discourse towards undocumented migrants.”
The comments used in the Facebook and WhatsApp groups incite violence while contributing very little to solve the actual problem. For instance, one of the users who was identified as “Javier” proposed the use of baseball bats, others encouraged people to throw Molotov cocktails at the migrants’ camp.
Though they did not use explosives during their first strike, they did throw rocks and assaulted migrants until the Federal Police intervened to put the migrants out of harm’s way. Until yesterday, almost 2,000 Central Americans had arrived in the border city, where another 3,000 migrants have now been put in a two-month long wait list to be received by the U.S. government as they request for asylum. In the meantime, there are now 10 shelters at over 100% capacity, according to César Palencia, director of the Attention of the Migrant group in Tijuana.
Authorities are expecting another 9 thousand migrants to arrive in less than a week. The state’s Human Rights Commission in Baja California has asked local authorities to implement precautionary measures to guarantee the integrity of the Central Americans.
TYT Newsroom with information from El Universal