A handful of women and children who arrived with the caravan of asylum seekers hoping to enter the US were allowed in overnight — giving hope to the roughly 140 others still camped out in Mexico.
But 11 others who tried to sneak over the border illegally a few miles from the sanctioned crossing point at San Ysidro were arrested, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned that anyone else who tried to enter the US illegally would also be prosecuted.
“The United States will not stand by as our immigration laws are ignored and our nation’s safety is jeopardized,” Sessions said in a statement reflecting the Trump administration’s hardline stance on immigration.
Celebrations erupted on Monday night among migrants camped near the border crossing in Tijuana after immigration officials admitted the eight women and children, fueling the determination of others to remain until they were admitted, Reuters reported.
Dozens slept in the open for a second cold desert night in the surroundings of the busy San Ysidro port of entry after pumping fists and cheering the news late on Monday that Customs and Border Patrol had opened the gates to the first people allowed into the US.
Those left behind said they would continue their sit-in until they were at least allowed to recount their stories to border officials and try to convince them that it was unsafe to go home.
“We crossed the whole of Mexico,” said Angel Caceres, who said he fled Honduras with his 5-year-old son after his brother and nephew were murdered and his mother beaten and raped. They would stay, he said, “until the last person is in, as long as it takes.”
President Trump has raged at the caravan, calling for changes in immigration laws that would make it harder for asylum seekers and other would-be immigrants from entering the US.
“Our immigration laws in this country are a total disaster. They’re laughed at all over the world, they’re laughed at for their stupidity and we have to have strong immigration laws,” the president said Monday from the Rose Garden.
He has also specifically attacked the caravan — which once numbered more than 1,500 refugees, most from crime- and corruption-infested Central American countries.
“Despite the Democrat inspired laws on Sanctuary Cities and the Border being so bad and one-sided, I have instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security not to let these large Caravans of people into our Country. It is a disgrace,” he tweeted. “We are the only Country in the World so naive! WALL,” he tweeted on April 23.
But Team Trump’s hands are tied by international rules obliging the US to accept some applications, and most in the caravan said they were fleeing death threats, extortion and violence from powerful street gangs.
A CBP spokeswoman told Reuters the port of entry was congested with other undocumented immigrants, and that the caravan members might have to wait in Mexico temporarily.
Vice President Pence has accused the caravan’s organizers of persuading people to leave their homes to advance an “open borders” agenda.
But just two of the dozens of people in the caravan who spoke to the news service over the past month said they were aware of the caravan’s existence before they left home.
They said it had not played a role in their decision to flee what they described as appalling conditions.
Asylum seekers try to travel in large groups to deter attacks and robberies.
In order to get in, they must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution at home, most often from a state entity.
Central Americans fare badly making such claims, however, because violent gangs, not the state, are to blame for the life-threatening conditions they leave behind.