LGBT members of a caravan of Central American migrants heading toward the U.S. border appear to have reached the California border after leaving the main group behind over alleged discrimination from other migrants.
A local community group in Tijuana, Mexico, where the group appears to have arrived, said they were “surprised” to see members of the caravan arrive earlier than expected in the small town, which borders San Diego, California.
“Very surprised because we did not know about the arrival of this caravan,” community group Vecinos de Playas de Tijuana, A.C., or Neighbors of Playas de Tijuana, A.C., wrote in a Facebook statement translated from Spanish.
The community group said that roughly 77 members of the caravan had arrived, though it is unclear if all of them identify as LGBT.
According to Vecinos de Playas de Tijuana, A.C., the group’s appointed leader, César Mejía, has said that the Central American migrants plan to stay in Tijuana for roughly a week.
Mejía reportedly told the neighborhood group that the LGBT members of the migrant caravan were receiving support from U.S. lawyers in their apparent bid to seek asylum in the U.S.
The group planned to use Airbnb for accommodations, with ABC 10 News reporting that American lawyers were helping to cover the costs for shelter.
Members traveling with the group, including Mejía, told NBC San Diego that they fled the larger caravan group, which includes thousands of people, after facing discrimination from other migrants.
“Even to bathe was a big problem, and when we wanted to shower there was no water…same with food,” Mejía told NBC San Diego.
He said that while LGBT members of the caravan had not faced physical violence while traveling with the group, they were subject to verbal abuse.
Caravan members told NBC that an “anonymous organization” had provided them with buses for transport to Tijuana.
Another member of the group who reportedly recently arrived in Tijuana, Nehemías de León, told NBC that migrants traveling with the caravan were not bad people, adding that they just want a better life.
“I think to do bad, you don’t have to migrate to another country. You just stay where you are,” he said. “But I think we’re going for a better life. We want to work. We want to be what we’ve always been—honorable people.”
The group is likely to make its way to the San Ysidro U.S. port of entry at the Tijuana-San Diego border in the coming days to make their asylum claims.
As for the rest of the caravan, local Mexican officials were helping thousands traveling with the group to find transport for the next leg of their journey toward the U.S. border.
#AlMomento personas migrantes continúan avanzando de forma ordenada en dirección a Tijuana, con el acompañamiento de autoridades hasta su salida del estado. Durante su estancia recibieron alimento y atención médica @poesqro @SSPMQueretaro pic.twitter.com/qDyCa8bdnu
— ProtecciónCivilSEGOBQro (@pcivilqro) November 11, 2018
The rest of the group also appears to be headed towards the Tijuana-San Diego border in an apparent bid to make their asylum claims at the San Ysidro port of entry.
On Sunday, the government of central Mexican city Queretaro said that a total of 6,531 people traveling with the caravan were on their way to Tijuana, with more than around 1,600 miles to go until they reach the border town.
The Queretaro government said that 760 caravan members had left on Saturday morning, with 5,771 leaving the city on Sunday.
Vecinos de Playas de Tijuana, A.C. and the Mayor’s Office of Tijuana have not immediately responded to a request for comment for this article.