Radical American Activists Flock To Migrant Caravan In Tijuana



VO: 13:53:02 "They call me a racist all the time, they call me a vendida, they say I'm against my own people ..."

Paloma Zuniga is a US and Mexican citizen known as "Paloma for Trump." She's at a migrant shelter in Tijuana, making Facebook Live videos about the people she's characterized to her 49 thousand Facebook followers as 'invaders.' One man gets angry.

8:49:30 "I can film you too!"

Zuniga finds a Honduran man she's met before, who has plans to go home … He says he needs money to buy bus tickets for his two friends to join him ..

"Ok i love your message ... 8:55:44

She tells him she loves his message, and that she's going to ask her followers to help him.

(photo of dog with her baseball cap, other FB posts)

Zuniga sells "Make Tijuana Great Again Hats" and posts multiple times a day to Facebook.

(clip of FB live video from FB)

"Good afternoon guys! How is everybody doing!"

She spreads conspiracy theories and xenophobia against migrants, falsely telling people a photo of a mother running from tear gas was staged. Zuniga says she's not against all the migrants -- just the ones who break the law.

9:00:45 "Give me your hand so they see."

And while thousands of these Central Americans want asylum, Zuniga says most don't deserve it.

SOT: 9:07:25 "The bottom line is each country should take care of its own people."

Zuniga was part of a confrontation against the caravan in the fall. Rocks and punches were thrown. The far-right group Oath Keepers has also put out a call to action online, to send militants to the border to keep the caravan out.

(Drone footage of the fence - leave a quiet pause after the following track:)

But the border is attracting other kinds of activists, too.

VO of Evan Duke as he smokes with fence in the background: 12:33:04 "I advocate for an end to borders. And again that's just me personally."

Evan Duke is an Anti-fascist and a social justice activist who came from Seattle with a handful of other left-wing activists to offer protection and aid to the migrants.

12:53:50 "When right wing hate groups threaten to march on refugees, we're going to call out the community to stand in support of them -- to put bodies in front of them if they're threatened."

Duke says things have gotten tense.

12:53:14 "We've been receiving death threats on facebook here's one now from jose opuerto out of san diego 'just know i'll be close behind our agitators and i will kill you if you get too comfortable.'"

(broll of hipster-hippie looking kids at shelter)

Duke and several other activists went to the same shelter Paloma for Trump had visited, to document the fact that migrants were being evicted by authorities.

We spoke to one of them later at the border. This is Brendon Tucker, from Canyon Lake, Texas.

13:15:35 "I believe in cleaning up our own mess and this is a mess we created in the first place."

He came to Tijuana to cook for asylum-seekers after learning that the U-S contributed to unrest in Central America -- by backing military coups and sending guns.

Tucker was at the border on New Year's when more than a hundred migrants tried to cross the border illegally and were tear-gassed by Border Patrol.

13:11:30 "We had nothing to do with helping ppl cross we had nothing to do with organizing it all we came to do is to witness document it and deliver medical aid."

Some American activists are openly encouraging migrants to jump the fence. BAMN, By Any Means Necessary, is distributing flyers telling migrants to storm the border. We spoke to the national director, Shanta Driver, by phone.

10:22 (shanta clip on my Bert shelf) "Getting across the border by any means necessary is absolutely the right thing to do … We urge and encourage people to take mass action."

She says it's unsafe for migrants to be in Tijuana, amid record violence. But Attorney Erika Pinheiro disagrees.

13:55:57 "Waiting in Tijuana is not the same as trying to cross a smuggling route that is controlled by organized crime."

She says BAMN is putting lives in danger, and compromising good humanitarian work. Her nonprofit Al Otro Lado provides pro bono legal services to migrants. She says BAMN is helping Trump's narrative that the caravan is an invasion.

14:00:37 "That is not solidarity. That's exploitation. They're exploiting migrants to make a political point."

Karen Perez came from Nicaragua with her four children. She says the conflicting messages from Americans have been confusing. She's on a weeks-long wait list to apply for asylum in the U-S.

11:16:28 Sometimes I get hopeless, thinking I'll say yes to the people telling me to throw myself over the fence --- but no. What am I, crazy? I'm not crazy. I'm going to wait.


Title: Radical American Activists Flock To Migrant Caravan In Tijuana

Type: Segment

Subject(s): Other

Public Broadcasting Station or Institution: KPBS

Original Broadcast/Publish Date: 01/23/2019

Runtime: 00:05:14

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Language: English


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