Tension rose near the U.S.-Mexico border as a caravan of migrants from Latin America in the thousands planned to seek asylum in the United States, reported the Associated Press. Students said they may understand why immigrants want to migrate for a better life, but students from Mexico said if people worked hard, they can create their own opportunity at home.
About 3,000 migrants camped in Tijuana, Mexico as they faced protests from some of Tijuana's citizens. The protests came after a California court blocked President Donald Trump's asylum ban for illegal border crossers. On a San Diego Pacific Coast beach, the U.S. reinforced border walls with "row upon row of concertina wire," according to AP.
Freshman Ben Cranney, a business major, commented on how the group of migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and other Latin American countries may impact his life, because he lives in San Diego, California where the migrants plan to enter into the U.S. to seek asylum and refuge. Although the caravan is close to his home, Cranney shared he is not concerned if the group comes into the country.
“If they want to get into the country so badly, then I think they have good intentions. They aren’t coming to mess with anyone, they’re trying to prove the point that they are people who are seeking a better life.”
Some of the protestors in Tijuana claimed the migrants are criminals, as Trump voiced in a tweet saying, “They are causing crime and big problems in Mexico. Go home.”
Tijuana police officer Victor Coronel, who has overseen security where the migrants are staying, said those fears are based on the bad behavior of only a handful of migrants. He said there had been bad information circulating on social media, with videos of two or three migrants climbing the wall or taking food from stores, but is not an accurate depiction of the whole group, AP reported.
Cranney agreed with the viewpoint of the Tijuana police officer. He said because he lives near the Mexico border, he can understand how immigrants are sometimes inaccurately profiled. He said the perception immigrants is part of a bigger issue than one caravan.
"They’re already treated as third class citizens, and I don’t think they need any more obstacles to overcome. Ultimately, I believe they truly want a better life. They are following the American Dream which takes a lot of bravery even though it doesn’t always work out."
Shantall Morales, a freshman psychology major, said some people deserve to be welcomed into the U.S., but only for specific reasons. Since Shantall is from Mexico, she revealed she sees the caravan as a deeper problem.
“I think we all need to help people, but I feel because of my experience with Hispanics when you give help they abuse it," Shantall said. "I think it is good they are looking for a better place to live, but I think they can find a way to make their home better than actually running away from it.”
Shantall added she understands why people would want to leave their country because she left Mexico to go to BYU–Hawaii, but the difference is that she plans to go back to Mexico and use her education to help her people.
During her Latter-day Saint mission to St. George, Utah, she met with many who risked their lives to come to the U.S. After interacting with these immigrants, she said she realized just because someone immigrates to the U.S., it does not mean they will live their best life.
“[Immigrants] live for work. They work so hard in the states, and if they worked the way the work down in Mexico, they would have lived better than how they live in the states,” said Shantall.
After coming to BYUH and joining Enactus, an organization that aims to fix world problems through entrepreneurial action, she said she wants to improve life in Mexico. She is currently planning projects with her sister Katya, a freshman psychology and peacebuilding major, on ways to have Mexicans appreciate their culture.
“You make the world the way you want it to be,” stated Shantall. “You make the decisions that will affect your circumstances so it is up to you if you will make the change or just run away.”
Katya Morales agreed with her sister, Shantall, and said she finds it is hard to relate to the caravan of migrants because of her grandfather. Her grandfather was in a similar situation as the migrants because his dad left him when he was a baby and his mom died when he was eight. Despite these challenges, Kayta noted her grandfather stayed in Mexico and took every opportunity he could.
Katya said her grandfather started cleaning in a machinery factory. Through his experience, he built his own business which designs drill bits for large machinery. “My grandfather never gave up. He told me whenever you work somewhere you need to make yourself indispensable. You need to work harder than everyone else.”
Now Katya’s grandfather has run his business for over 30 years, and she said she believes if more people would work hard and take every opportunity, they would not need to leave their home.