Tijuana Health Dep't: Thousands of Caravan Members Have HIV, Tuberculosis or Parasites


From politics to security to finances, there are a lot of reasons the migrant caravan currently stalled in Tijuana has become a disaster.

Attitudes in Mexico have already started to turn against the Central American migrants camped out in the border city, and now there’s another red flag to add to the caravan’s problems: public health.

Officials are sending a warning about a health crisis brewing among the migrants, many of whom have been illegally trying to scale walls and cross the border into the United States. According to Tijuana’s health department, several thousand migrants have serious — and often contagious — diseases.

“Migrants who came with the caravan are suffering from respiratory infections, tuberculosis, chickenpox and other serious health issues,” Fox News reported, citing Tijuana medical experts.

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The Mexican health official who spoke to the news outlet estimated that more than a third of 6,000 migrants in the city are being treated for health problems.

That isn’t entirely surprising considering the conditions they dealt with during their long march, but it does raise the alarm about containing the issue.

“There are three confirmed cases of tuberculosis, four cases of HIV/AIDS and four separate cases of chickenpox,” Fox reported. “At least 101 migrants have lice and multiple instances of skin infections, the department’s data shows.”

It must be noted that those figures are only the confirmed cases. Because many migrants are avoiding interacting with authorities and are under-treated, it’s almost guaranteed that the real numbers are significantly higher.

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As if those health issues aren’t bad enough, there could be even more serious problems looming on the horizon. Mexico’s makeshift shelter for caravan members near the U.S. border is a veritable petri dish for new disease outbreaks.

“There’s also a threat of Hepatitis outbreak due to unsanitary conditions,” Fox reported. “The thousands of migrants are being sheltered at the Benito Juarez Sports Complex near the San Ysidro U.S.-Mexico Port of Entry.

“The location also has only 35 portable bathrooms. A sign reading ‘No Spitting’ was put up, as coughing and spitting by migrants are rampant in the shelter.”

And Mexico? While its federal government has tried to stay fairly neutral in the caravan issue, local residents and leaders who are actually affected by the migrants are losing patience — and money.

“We won’t compromise the resources of the residents of Tijuana,” Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum said earlier this week. “We won’t raise taxes tomorrow to pay for today’s problem.”

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All of this adds up to one conclusion: The migrant caravan was a terrible idea from the beginning and has only run into more problems after it entered Mexico.

It’s worth remembering that these migrants weren’t forced out of their home countries. They voluntarily decided to join the ill-fated trek, perhaps falling for false promises and exaggerated claims.

In many cases they also dragged young children with them while scuffling with border police, climbing dangerous fences, and moving through some of the most treacherous territory in Mexico — all with almost no preparation or planning.

The reality is that this was an avoidable mess. They didn’t have to drag themselves and their children through this nightmare. As many migrants who are now voluntarily returning home found out, bringing Central America’s problems to the Mexico border doesn’t magically fix them.

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Benjamin Arie is an independent journalist and writer. He has personally covered everything ranging from local crime to the U.S. president as a reporter in Michigan before focusing on national politics. Ben frequently travels to Latin America and has spent years living in Mexico.