A group of nearly 200 Central Americans was stopped on the Mexican side of the United States border on Sunday.
Their month-long march across Mexico was suspended when border inspectors announced they do not have enough space to house the marchers.
The Central American migrants are seeking asylum in the U.S. But President Donald Trump promised to “stop” them from entering the country.
The asylum-seekers arrived close to Tijuana, along the coast, where a steel fence stretching into the Pacific Ocean blocked their path. They sang the Honduran national anthem as supporters on the U.S side of the fence waved a Honduran flag.
Some migrants were permitted through an opening controlled by Mexican officials. But they were stopped on the other side at the entrance to the U.S. inspection center. Another 50 or so set up a camp on the Mexican side of the San Ysidro border crossing.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said the border crossing had “reached capacity” for people without legal documents. He added asylum-seekers might need to wait in Mexico temporarily.
Trump has often spoken about the caravan of migrants since it began forming on March 25 near the Guatemalan border. His administration wants to end the policy known as “catch-and-release.” The policy permits those seeking asylum to be detained and released into the U.S. while waiting for their court hearing – a process that can take years.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called the caravan “a deliberate attempt to undermine our laws.” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said asylum claims will be resolved and warned that anyone making false claims could be tried.
Nicole Ramos is providing legal assistance to the marchers. She said the U.S. government has known that the migrants would arrive at the border to seek asylum. She blamed U.S. officials for their failure to prepare and to get more agents to the inspection center.
Ramos said, “We can build a base in Iraq in under a week. We can’t process 200 refugees. I don’t believe it.”
The caravan grew over the last month to more than 1,000 migrants. Some have sought asylum in Mexico. But many wanted to continue to the U.S.
At San Ysidro border crossing, U.S. officials can consider about 50 asylum requests a day. And the inspection center can hold up to 300 people.
Wendi Yaneri Garcia is seeking asylum with her 2-year-old son, who has been sick. She said police in her hometown in Honduras, jailed her for protesting work on a hydroelectric plant. Garcia said she also received death threats after being released.
She added, “All I want is a place where I can work and raise my son."
Elin Orrellana of El Salvador is 23-years-old and pregnant. She said the MS-13 gang had killed her older sister. She is attempting to join other family members in the Kansas City area. The Trump administration has targeted the criminal group because of its killings in U.S. communities.
She said, “Fighting on is worth it.”
I'm Jonathan Evans.
Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on AP news reports. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
migrant - n. a person who goes from one place to another to find work
anthem - n. an contry's official song
capacity - n. the ability to hold or contain people
caravan - n. a group of people traveling together
deliberate - adj. done or said on purpose
undermine - v. to make something weaker or less effective
plant - n. a building or factory where something is made
gang - n. a group of criminals