Several members of the Central American Exodus tried a different means of gaining asylum in the United States, making their way across the border fence in Tijuana, Mexico late Monday night. Some immediately turned themselves over to U.S. Border Patrol agents while others shimmied through less fortified parts of the fence close to the Pacific Ocean and chose to run north where they would have a stronger wall and additional agents awaiting them.
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Five waves of the Migrant Exodus, or caravans, left out of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador starting Oct. 12, walking and hitchhiking to Tijuana, Mexico, on the U.S. border, in just over a month. The thousands of Central Americans, including many parents with children, were accused by U.S. President Donald Trump of being ‘criminal invaders’ as they made the dangerous journey to escape overwhelming poverty, violence and climate change within their home countries.
Most of the migrants arrived in Tijuana by mid-November and were met with a militarized border, and U.S. security forces firing rubber bullets and throwing tear gas in some instances.
Trump had tried to force asylum-seekers to enter only at limited ports of entry or to wait in Mexico while their cases are being heard, but both tactics were thrown out by U.S. courts. Immigration authorities have chosen to restrict asylum applications through Tijuana to between 40 and 100 per day. Over 2,000 refugees are waiting for their turn in a government-run shelter in a dangerous part of Tijuana over 20km from the border, which was relocated after the first shelter was flooded.
Frustrated and exhausted after months of uncertainty and inhumane conditions, many are deciding to take their chances and traverse the border.
Karen Mayeni, a 29-year-old Honduran looked at the fence while clinging to her three children, aged six, 11 and 12. "We're just observing, waiting to see what happens," Mayeni said.
"We'll figure out what to do in a couple of days," added the Honduran mom. 90 minutes later, she and her family were over the fence, reporters Reuters.
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A number of the migrants ran to escape capture, but most of them walked slowly to where U.S. Border Patrol officials were waiting under floodlights to hand themselves in.
Applying for asylum at a U.S. land border can take months, so if migrants enter and present themselves to authorities their case could be heard quicker.
Others Monday night decided to run. One child and his mother got over the fence and ran, turning around to wave back at those still on the Mexican side.
In Tijuana, authorities arrested some 236 Central Americans, mainly from Honduras for consuming illegal substances in public spaces and “disturbing public order,” says local media. Some 200 were detained and at least half were deported by Mexican agents last week.
Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum Buenrostro, who has already been sued for fomenting xenophobia in the transient city of 1.3 million people, told reporters that asylum seekers “can’t just come in and expect to stay” in the city. “We can’t take this anymore,” said the city leader.