Mexico Clears Migrant Camp Near Border in Tijuana

Feb 8, 2022
12:11 PM

Municipal police line up in riot gear outside a migrant camp in Tijuana, Mexico, February 6, 2022. (Alex Mensing)

Before dawn on Sunday, the Mexican National Guard removed hundreds of asylum seekers from the Chaparral encampment in Tijuana. Video on Twitter shows migrants being escorted onto a bus.


While it has been speculated that the purpose was to clear out asylum seekers to allow for the opening of the San Yisidro port of entry at the San Diego-Tijuana border, motives for the removal of the camp remain unclear.

“The Tijuana government says they evicted the refugee families for their own good, but no forced eviction is nonviolent, especially not at 4 a.m. with 350 police officers and national guardsmen with clubs and riot gear,” said Alex Mensing, a human rights observer and immigrant rights advocate based in Tijuana, tells Latino Rebels.

“The real reason for the eviction is to remove them from public view, to end their collective appropriation of public space, and to clear the way for a border crossing that was closed nearly a year before the camp formed due to the pandemic,” Mensing explains.

He says that despite the lack of trust, many asylum seekers boarded buses to be taken to shelters run by the Mexican federal government. Others who have gained employment or were unsure of what to do next chose to stay in the area and remain close to the point of entry rather than being transported more than an hour away.

Not often discussed are the dangers migrants face by being forced to remain in Mexico as they await their court hearings.

“All of Tijuana is dangerous for migrants, and the eviction did not change that,” Mensing says. “As long as the U.S. refuses to respect people’s right to seek asylum, these refugee families will be at risk.”

The local shelter, which houses as many as 3,000 asylum seekers, was opened in 2019 and is located in the El Águila neighborhood in Tijuana’s Cerro Colorado borough. It’s a safe haven for asylum seekers embroiled in the U.S. policy commonly known a” “Remain in Mexico” policy —the Migrant Protection Protocols, officially— which began under the Trump administration but has continued under President Biden despite campaign promises.

In 2019, Mexico’s Deputy Secretary of Employment Horacio Duarte Olivares told the San Diego Union-Tribune that providing services and protection to asylum seekers stranded in Mexico’s northern border states was part of a commitment between the United States and Mexico to avoid punishing tariffs President Trump threatened to impose.

Despite the outcry over leaving asylum seekers vulnerable on the streets of Mexico during Trump’s presidency, the policy has been met with relative silence during Biden’s presidency. In August, Reuters published an exclusive story showing evidence of the United States urging Mexico to clear the migrant camps near the border—news that received little attention from the public.

U.S. government officials in August declared migrant camps unsanitary and claimed they drew gang members looking to recruit desperate asylum seekers. However, as Reuters’ Dave Graham reported, “For weeks, the U.S. government has been asking Mexico to clear the camps, in part because the sheer volume of people in them could jeopardize security if they made a sudden rush for the border, two officials familiar with the matter said.”

For its part, the Biden administration says its hands tied.

“We are under a court ordered re-implementation,” a White House source speaking under the condition of anonymity tells Latino Rebels. “It’s not a policy we agree with, and that’s why we are appealing, and it’s also why the Department of Homeland Security has issued termination memos on this.”


Arturo Domínquez is a first-generation Cuban American father of three young men, an anti-racist, journalist, and publisher of The Antagonist Magazine. If you’d like to learn more about the issues covered here, follow him on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. You can also support his work here and here.