Shelter capacity in the city is limited, and several facilities already are overcrowded with women and children preparing to petition U.S. authorities for asylum.
An existing wait list has swelled to more than 2,500 people, and reaching the front of the line can take as long as six weeks. U.S. officials at the San Ysidro Port of Entry might process 30 or even 60 from the line in a day. Some days they might not take any, according to the migrants who are waiting to be accepted for processing.
With at least three migrant caravans now making their way north — the third group of more than 1,000 Salvadorans waded over the Suchiate River from Guatemala on Friday— the issue has become increasingly urgent at the country’s northern border, prompting meetings to develop contingency plans of how Tijuana and Baja California would cope with the presence of thousands of Central American migrants in the city for an indefinite period.
“No city in the world is ready to respond to a group of 6,000 to 7,000 people who arrive all at once,” said César Palencia, head of the office of migrant affairs at Tijuana City Hall. “That is our biggest concern, that the federal government won’t do anything and in the end, it will be municipalities and the state who end up having to offer support.”
The three caravans stretched across the southern Mexican states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Veracruz, together totaling more than 6,000 migrants.
Still, there remains much uncertainty as to when, where and how many of those migrants currently in transit will finally make it to the U.S. border, and if Tijuana will even be a destination. Last spring, a Central American caravan swelled to 1,500 in southern Mexico ended up with only about 300 in Tijuana, with some 250 of those applying for asylum at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.