TIJUANA, Mexico — The mayor of Tijuana has declared a humanitarian crisis in his border city and said Friday he was asking the United Nations for aid to deal with the approximately 5,000 Central American migrants, most of whom were camped out inside a sports complex.
The comments by Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum came as city officials and volunteers worked together to assist the 4,976 men, women and children who had arrived after more than a month on the road. The Trump administration has spent weeks lambasting the caravan, which it said was filled with criminals, gang members and even — it insinuated at one point without any proof — terrorists.
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Manuel Figueroa, who leads the city’s social services department, said Tijuana was bringing in portable toilets and showers, as well as shampoo and soap.
It wasn’t enough.
“Because of the absence, the apathy and the abandonment of the federal government, we are having to turn to international institutions like the U.N.,” Figueroa said.
Rene Vazquez, 60, a Tijuana resident who was volunteering at the stadium, said Mexico’s federal government ignored the problem by allowing the caravan to cross the country without stopping. Now the city of 1.6 million is stuck with the fallout.
“I don’t have anything against the migrants, they were the most deceived, but this is affecting us all,” Vazquez said.
Gastelum vowed not to commit the city’s public resources to deal with the situation. On Thursday, his government issued a statement saying that it was requesting help from the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Vazquez, who plays on a soccer team that uses the sports complex, said Mexico should step up now and process humanitarian visas for the group so they can start looking for work. Meanwhile, since his soccer team can no longer practice at the complex, he was spending time passing out donated pizzas and roasted chicken to the migrants.