More than a hundred migrants and asylum seekers, several waving the Honduran flag, gathered outside a school in central Calexico, California, on Saturday to protest the border area being turned into a “Trump sanctuary city.” About 50 local, state and federal police officers and members of the U.S. Border Patrol stood by, waiting for the protest to start.
“Right now we are living in a humanitarian crisis,” said Melisa Montes, an organizer with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance. She said parents have told her their children are sleeping without mattresses in sleeping bags and climbing on the roofs of cars to get clean water.
Montes and other organizers traveled to California because they have been following the Trump administration’s use of emergency powers to declare the border crisis, and worry that the federal government is relocating people who can’t communicate Spanish into deportation proceedings.
She said that “sanctuary cities” like this one in California should protect immigrants and no longer push them out of the country. The protest Saturday, led by union members, was aimed at gathering local support to push back against the Trump administration, and talked of the decision to hold a national march on Oct. 12. She said the main theme for the march would be, “No fear. No walls.”
“All of us need to realize we have a shared destiny,” Montes said. “All of us can live in peace, all of us can go to school together, all of us can be independent of each other. That’s what’s next for me.”
On the other side of the nation, another group of border-crossers made a similar protest in Tijuana. Dozens of members of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, or MOAS, stood on the Mexico side of the Rio Grande crossing and chanted slogans in Spanish, using basic Spanish to talk to migrants traveling from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Moas, which is based in Texas, volunteers in the border area, helping to reunite migrants with loved ones, find them jobs and transport them to destinations around the country. In Tijuana, volunteers at a staging area on the Mexico side said they were holding their own protests of the border situation. But the migrants’ arrival is only the latest to draw large numbers of people to the area, causing congestion and near-panic.
“We’re facing perhaps the biggest crisis on our Southern border in decades,” said Dubielle Harrington, a volunteer at the California protest. “I don’t think the U.S. government understands the numbers of people that are here, or how significant it is.”
Some protesters said they planned to join in the coming week’s nationwide demonstrations and have asked elected officials to support them. Both organizers and a federal judge last week admonished the Trump administration for the handling of Central American immigrants at the border.
One migrant at the California protest said he left Honduras to escape violence and extortion.
“If I had stayed, I would be going back soon to a worse situation,” he said through a translator. “I should just swim across.”