Friday 20 September 2019

Mexico's 'migrant caravan' refused entry to US at border

Central American migrants travelling in the “Migrant Via Crucis” caravan bed down outside “El Chaparral” port of entry to US. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Central American migrants travelling in the “Migrant Via Crucis” caravan bed down outside “El Chaparral” port of entry to US. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Elliot Spagat in Tijuana

After traveling through Mexico with great fanfare for a month under the Trump administration's watchful eye, nearly 200 Central American migrants attempting to seek asylum in the United States were stopped in their tracks when border inspectors said that a crossing facility didn't have enough space to accommodate them.

US President Donald Trump vowed last week to "stop" the caravan while cabinet members said they would deliver a swift response. The asylum seekers held firm, setting up a possible showdown.

In an anticlimactic twist, about 50 asylum seekers were allowed past a gate controlled by Mexican officials to walk across a long bridge but were stopped at the entrance to the US inspection facility at the other end.

They were allowed to wait outside the building, technically on Mexican soil, without word of when US officials would let them claim asylum.

Another 50 or so camped on blankets and backpacks in Tijuana, outside the Mexican side of the crossing, prohibited from even getting close to the US inspection building.

The asylum-seekers began the day with anticipation, traveling in red-and-white school buses under police escort to a beach-front rally in Tijuana, where a steel fence juts out into the Pacific Ocean. They sang the Honduran national anthem, and supporters on the San Diego side of the fence waved a Honduran flag.

After a final briefing from lawyers and minutes before they were to begin a short walk to the border crossing, US customs and border protection commissioner Kevin McAleenan announced that the San Ysidro border crossing, the nation's busiest, had "reached capacity" for people without legal documents and that asylum-seekers may need to wait in Mexico temporarily.

Mr Trump has commented frequently on the caravan since it started in Mexico on March 25 near the Guatemala border and headed north to Tijuana.

His broadsides came as his administration vowed to end what officials call "legal loopholes" and "catch-and-release" policies that allow people requesting asylum to be released from custody into the US while their claims make their way through the courts, which can take years.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called the caravan "a deliberate attempt to undermine our laws and overwhelm our system". Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said asylum claims will be resolved "efficiently and expeditiously".

Irish Independent

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