Heads of state of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking nations call for the development and assistance of countries migrants are fleeing. With about 3,000 migrants at the US border, Tijuana says the city is preparing for an influx that will last months.
Leaders at a summit of Ibero-American nations called on Friday for development and assistance for the poor to alleviate waves of migrants fleeing poverty, violence, political instability and persecution in the Americas.
More than a dozen presidents and King Felipe VI of Spain met in Guatemalan city of Antigua as large numbers of people have been migrating from places such as Venezuela and parts of Central America. Thousands of mostly Hondurans travelling in a caravan have been arriving in recent days at the Mexican city of Tijuana, across the border from San Diego.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto called on leaders to sign a global pact on migration in Morocco next month.
“It is true that the best way to avoid having people migrate involuntarily is by promoting, among other things, internal development in our nations,” Pena Nieto said.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez blamed emigration from his country on a coffee crisis and climate change, which he says has caused droughts.
Migrants in the caravan have said repeatedly that they left due to poverty, violence and insecurity in Honduras.
Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado called for dialogue to resolve festering political crises in Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Host President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala said the summit aimed to “renew the region’s commitment to sustainable development.”
Barbed wire, not armed guards
As thousands of migrants in a caravan of Central American asylum-seekers converge on the doorstep of the United States, what they won't find are armed American soldiers standing guard.
Instead, they will see cranes installing towering panels of metal bars and troops wrapping concertina wire around barriers while military helicopters fly overhead, carrying border patrol agents to and from locations along the US-Mexico border.
That's because US military troops are prohibited from carrying out law-enforcement duties.
What's more, the bulk of the troops are in Texas — hundreds of miles away from the caravan that started arriving this week in Tijuana on Mexico's border with California after walking and hitching rides for the past month.
Still, for many migrants, the barriers and barbed wire were an imposing show of force.
Tijuana's beach where a wall of metal bars more than 20 feet high cut across the sand and plunged into the Pacific witnessed crews on the US side placed coils of barbed wire on top.
A border patrol agent wearing camouflage and armed with an assault rifle — part of a tactical unit deployed when there is a heightened threat — walked in the sand below where the men worked.
A small border patrol boat hovered offshore.
"It's too much security to confront humble people who just want to work," said Ulloa, a 23-year-old electrician from Choloma, Honduras, who joined the caravan to try to make his first trip to the US.
Now, he and his two friends were rethinking their plans. They tried to apply for a job at a Wal-Mart in Tijuana but were told they need a Mexican work permit. So they were considering seeking asylum in Mexico but were unsure of giving up their dream of earning dollars.
On Friday, people walking through one of the world's busiest border crossings into Mexico passed by a pair of Marines on a 20-foot lift installing razor wire above a turnstile.
Nearby Army Sergeant Eric Ziegler stood guard with another soldier. Both were military police officers assigned to protecting the Marines as they work.
The 24-year-old soldier from Pittsburgh spent nine months in Afghanistan. "It's very different over there, obviously. It's a lot more dangerous," Ziegler said.
He said he was surprised when got his deployment orders sending him to the US-Mexico border.
"But I'm happy to go where I'm needed" he added as a man walked by carrying shopping bags headed to Tijuana.
Overcrowding in Tijuana
With about 3,000 Central American migrants having reached the Mexican border across from California and thousands more anticipated, the mayor of Tijuana said on 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."
US 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.
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. Authorities promised more toilets.
Tijuana officials said they opened the shelter as part of an effort to keep migrants out of public spaces.
Gastelum wondered why the migrants chose Tijuana instead of other Mexican cities on the US 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 Governor Francisco Vega de la Madrid, said on Thursday that the state had 7,000 jobs available for any migrants who obtain legal status in Mexico.
Also Friday, another caravan set out from Mexico City heading toward the border.