The first busloads of migrants rolled into town on Sunday, and dozens more buses arrived on each of the next days, until about half the caravan – some 2,800 people – had reached the city by Friday evening, and the local government scrambled to house them in sports centres, its existing migrant shelters already straining at the seams.
The migrants, muted, grubby, their faces thin and sunburned, say they will wait until the entire caravan has reached Tijuana to plan how to proceed. Their decision-making is organic and difficult to follow from the outside; this may mean waiting for the arrival of the other half of this first group that set out from Honduras on Oct. 13. Or it may mean waiting until their numbers are swelled with two other caravans – of 1,000 and 1,500 people – that are working their way through southern Mexico.
But they have, ultimately, only a handful of options.
“I think 30 per cent will try to make an asylum claim and 40 per cent will cross to the U.S. in some other way,” said Cesar Palencia, who is in charge of migrant issues for Tijuana. By “some other way,” he meant the human-smuggling industry that thrives along the border, its prices climbing steadily as the Trump administration erects more barriers and reduces the options for crossing. The migrants could go home once they find out how difficult it will be to enter the United States, but Mr. Palencia said they rarely make that choice.