TIJUANA (Border Report) — There were no hostages taken during Tuesday night’s incident at a migrant detention facility and shelter in Tijuana, according to immigration officials in Baja California.
Two hundred Venezuelan migrants, reportedly in fear about being deported, rose up and threatened to storm out of the facility.
Hundreds of police officers, firefighters, paramedics and National Guard troops responded to what was initially called a riot.
“No, no, no, it was a disturbance,” said Minerva Espinoza, undersecretary for migrant affairs in Baja California. “No hostages were taken, all that took place was a dialogue with the migrants.”
Tijuana’s chief of police, José Fernando Sánchez González, told reporters while the incident threatened to get out of hand, the situation was kept under control and no one was harmed.
“No hostages were taken or held, security personnel were inside the entire time,” said Sánchez González. “No one’s life was in danger, everyone was able to get out safely.”
The police chief did say at one point migrants tried to set a kitchen on fire but firefighters who arrived at the scene quickly put it out.
Espinoza said seven migrants, including a pregnant woman, received medical attention during the incident, but only one required hospitalization after showing signs of dehydration.
She said migrants calmed down after being assured no one was being sent back to Venezuela.
A day later outside the facility, Yorbeti Castañeda waited for news about her nephew who was being held there.
Castañeda shared she has been living in Tijuana for the past five years and said she’s trying to get Mexican immigration officials to turn over custody of her nephew to her.
“I have a good job, a home, the resources to take care of him,” said Castañeda. “We’re very worried and filled with anguish.”
She told Border Report her nephew had crossed the border into the U.S. near El Paso, Texas, last week, but was expelled to Tijuana via San Diego a few days ago.
“To this moment, we don’t have any information, they won’t tell us anything,” she said.
Also waiting outside were a few Venezuelan migrants who heard what happened and came to see if there was any information about fellow countrymen inside the detention center.
“They are desperate,” said Carlos Zombrano, who admitted not having any information about what took place Tuesday night, but said all Venezuelan migrants are getting anxious.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” he said.
One of his friends told Border Report they don’t like being “in limbo.”
“We were already mistreated,” said Luis Camarillo. “We were detained for six days in the U.S. where all they fed us were burritos and small amounts of water, then they shove us into Mexico, how do you think we’re going to react? … We’re all desperate, that’s why I think the riot took place.”
Immigration officials, including Espinoza, have said some Venezuelan migrants are being sent to facilities in Mexicali, Baja California’s capital city, to ease the burden on shelters in Tijuana. Some have agreed to go to Mexico City.
A sports complex in Tijuana is also being set up to shelter 350 migrants. The facility is expected to be ready by early next week.