Central American migrants are waiting for Sunday in Tijuana, Mexico, in a fenced area at the San Ysidro border crossing. (Carolyn Van Houten / The Washington Post)
TIJUANA, MEXICO – Dozens of Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States woke up at a California border crossing on Monday morning after US officials said they did not have enough space to accommodate the group in a high-profile test of Trump administration policies.
The arrival of 220 asylum seekers has called a showdown between migrants citing their right to seek protection from persecution, and the Trump government, which is trying to combat illegal immigration, calling many asylum claims fraudulent. 19659004] Trump tweeted last week that he ordered the Homeland Security Secretary to "not let these large human caravans into our country," adding, "It's a shame."
But under international law, the US government is required to allow foreigners to apply for asylum.
Trump administration officials said they will start processing the migrants if they have the capacity, but they have not indicated when that will happen. The San Ysidro port in San Diego has places for around 300 people. US officials have not said how many people are being held there. Asylum seekers are usually detained until US immigration officers conduct interviews to determine if they have a credible fear of persecution or torture.
The first few dozen migrants who identify themselves with white bracelets until the San Ysidro entry Sunday night. She and the other Central Americans had spent weeks in a convoy from southern Mexico, which attracted extraordinary attention after conservative US media highlighted their trip and the president denounced the caravan
On Monday, many migrants sat on blankets on the ground and donated blue tarpaulins in front of the border crossing. They went around a Tijuana newspaper trying to learn bits and pieces of information about their fate.
Trump has made this caravan a symbol of what he calls a permeable border and lax immigration laws. He used this as a justification for deploying National Guard troops along the border, claiming that Mexico was failing to enforce its immigration laws and further burdened relations with a major American ally.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently called the caravan "a deliberate attempt to undermine our laws and overwhelm our system."
Many of the migrants say they face threats to their lives in their homeland. Karina Gomez Cruz, 16, said she left Nicaragua for domestic violence and gang warfare, spent the night at the border crossing, wondering what her future would bring on Monday.
"I am bored waiting, afraid to arrive and nervous because they are not letting us through," said Gomez Cruz. "It is much colder than in Nicaragua."
Border police officials said in the days before the arrival of the migrants that they would treat them like any other asylum-seeker.
"We are shocked that The Port of Access would be so large that no asylum seekers could be accommodated," said Leo Olsen, one of the organizers of the caravan, on Sunday night while waiting with 30 of the migrants. "We do not plan to move until we can talk further about the situation."
If they succeed in filing US custody, the migrants are at the beginning of perhaps a longer and more complicated journey through the Immigration Court. Migrants who pass the initial "credible fear" exam are often given a date at the immigration court and are then typically released after a few days in detention. US officials say many migrants are missing out on their court records and trying to live illegally in the United States. Homeland Security Minister Kirstenen Nielsen made a statement when the caravan reached the border and warned that the government would prosecute its members illegally if they made false allegations or made someone make false claims
"The would really show how much the government is prepared to make the caravan an example of their tough political proposals, "said Maureen Meyer, director of Mexico and migrant rights at the Washington office for Latin America
Trump administration officials also say there are more migrants to apply for asylum in the past to use the immigration rules. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the number of foreigners who speak of "credible fear" increased by almost 1,900 percent between 2008 and 2016.
In recent years, organizers have brought caravans of asylum seekers together to draw attention to the plight of migrants on dangerous journeys, but they often travel in the dark. This year, conservative media in the United States attacked the caravan as a sign of runaway immigration, and Trump fanned the flames with tweets.
The caravan started with more than 1,500 people, but the number dropped to about When the group went north, on foot, by bus and train. Some have dispersed and others have decided to stay in Mexico. About 300 people stayed in the northern Mexican city of Hermosillo to apply for humanitarian visas, organizers said.
Maria Magdalena Iraeta Martínez, 47, of El Salvador said she plans to "go to a place where I can finally go free with my children, without threats."
Five years ago, Martínez said her family had been trapped in her house by armed members of the MS-13 gang. The gang members had tried to recruit their son William Rafael Carranza Martínez, now 25, but he had refused to participate. Armed men entered the house early in the morning, escorted the whole extended family outside and threw them to the ground at gunpoint.
The family fled to Guatemala and lived in southern Mexico for several years, but continued to receive gangs of threats, she said.
At the front of the caravan, Carranza pushed his sister's wheelchair up the ramp that led to the harbor. His mother followed him and cried.
"I ask God and the government to give me asylum," she said.
Partlow reported from Mexico City. Nick Miroff in Washington contributed to this report.