The Department of Homeland Security is doubling down on the militarization of the Southern border this week as groups from the migrant caravan begin to arrive in Tijuana, Mexico in a clear effort to intimidate asylum seekers trying to cross the border.
On Monday morning, DHS shut down all northbound lanes through the San Ysidro, the busiest land port along the Southern border, directing troops and Border Patrol officers to block traffic and install additional fortifications while halting all traffic through the border for hours. In a series of tweets, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen claimed the closures were aimed to prevent a “large number of caravan migrants” from rushing the border to enter the country illegally.
Right now, there are several hundred mostly Honduran migrants staying in shelters in Tijuana waiting to enter the country through one of the points of entry in that city (San Ysidro is the largest, but there are a few others). The group at the border now is relatively small, but already facing stiff resistance both from the DHS and from Mexicans nationalists—according to NPR, protests against the migrants have started up in the Rio neighborhood of the city.
In another tweet, Nielsen claimed the migrants were “causing disruptions” at points of entry, apparently blaming the protests in Mexico on the migrants themselves. (Mexican residents gathering in affluent suburbs of Tijuana reportedly chanted “Mexico First” and referred to the migrants as “animals”—sound familiar?)
Per NPR, the crisis is only going to get worse as the fractured caravan continues to make its way into the city:
The tensions are unlikely to die down soon: According to nonprofits at shelters in the border city Mexicali, 2,000 caravan members are expected to arrive in Tijuana in coming days. Another caravan of roughly 1,500 migrants is just north of Mexico City, according to a human rights commission that set up a shelter in the capital. Smaller contingents continue in southern Mexico.
Even before the caravan reached the city earlier this month, migrants in Tijuana created an informal list of names to keep track of those hoping to seek asylum in the U.S. As caravan members have added their names, the list recently surpassed 3,000.
The increased militarization could also just be for show, as the border crossing at San Ysidro is already tightly controlled and Nielsen’s claims about “disruptions” seem dubious. As USA Today reported:
As of midday Monday, no migrants had attempted such a rush. Homeland Security did not provide any additional detail on how migrants were “causing disruptions” at the ports.
The San Ysidro Port of Entry is already equipped with red buttons throughout the facility which can, when pressed, set off a chain reaction that shuts down the port to northbound traffic.
In other words, Kirstjen Nielsen is, once again, completely full of shit.
Update, 5:25 p.m. ET: This has all been such a despicable farce: Politico reports that the Pentagon will start bringing troops at the border home as early as this week—just as the migrants are starting to arrive—with a hard end date of Dec. 15.