Migrants on Mexican-US border celebrate Biden win

Flag-waving migrants on the Mexican-US border on Saturday welcomed Joe Biden’s presidential election win and voiced hope that Donald Trump’s defeat would bring greater respect for human rights.

“We’re celebrating the victory of Biden and the departure of Donald Trump,” said pastor Gustavo Banda, who heads a migrant shelter in Tijuana across the frontier from San Diego in California.

“We’re hoping that this new presidency will truly respect human rights,” he told AFP.

With Biden in the White House, Banda expressed optimism that “families (who enter the United States illegally) will no longer be separated and children will no longer be caged” in US immigration facilities.

“And that the migrants in our city achieve their hopes of a better life when they arrive in the United States,” he added.

Trump branded Mexican migrants “rapists” and drug dealers during his 2016 election campaign and vowed to build a wall along the border.

His “zero tolerance” policy launched in 2018 saw thousands of children separated from their parents at the frontier, a tactic apparently meant to frighten the families, before the government backed down.

Surrounded by migrants from Haiti and Central America and US flags, Banda took up a symbolic position near the border crossing where thousands of US citizens or legal residents pass each day.

Biden supporters waved the Stars and Stripes and some motorists honked their horns in celebration.

Around 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) to the east in Ciudad Juarez, Cuban migrant Pedro Ruiz expressed his joy at Trump’s defeat.

“I wanted Biden to win because he clearly said that he’s going to restore the entire asylum system,” the 51-year-old said.

Ruiz said he left Cuba four years ago “due to political repression” and has been in a shelter in Ciudad Juarez for 19 months.

Migrants living in the city’s shelters learned about the election results by television or through their cell phones, largely isolated from the outside world due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Under an agreement between Mexico and the United States in January 2019, asylum seekers must wait in Mexico for their applications to be processed in the United States.

Although illegal migration, mainly from Central America, has been a problem for decades, it has escalated since the end of 2018 when thousands of people headed for the United States in migrant caravans.

The mass flight from poverty and violence forced Mexico to tighten its border controls under threat of trade sanctions from Washington. (AFP)