A wave of Central American caravaners who started their journey through Mexico over a month ago reached the border city of Tijuana seeking asylum in the United States.
Hundreds of Central Americans - mainly Hondurans escaping political turmoil in their own country - unpacked from five school buses that had brought them up the Mexican coast. They were cheered on by people on both sides of the U.S, Mexico border as they prepared to seek asylum at the San Ysidro Port of Entry today.
Reina Isabel Rodriguez, 52, told the L.A. Times that she traveled from El Salvador with her two grandchildren, but feared what would happen upon talking with U.S. authorities. "I fear that they will separate me from them," she said.
It’s likely that members of the 'Viacrucis Migrante', as the group calls itself, will have to stay in Tijuana before being processed at the port owing to the number of people entering at once, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Pete Flores, the custom’s director of field operations in San Diego, said yesterday that "depending on port circumstances at the time of arrival, individuals may need to wait in Mexico as CBP officers work to process those already within our facilities."
The march began - as it does each year - in Tapachula, Mexico at the Guatemalan border on March 25, Catholicism’s Good Friday. This annual caravan, whose aim doesn’t typically include asking for U.S. asylum, started out with some 1,700 migrants and supporters.
Migrants began to disperse in early April as Mexican officials began to detain the caravan in the face of disparaging tweets by U.S. President Donald Trump who said the group was a threat to the United States security insisting that the Mexican government should do more to stop the asylum seekers.
However, many regrouped two weeks ago and the first wave of migrants reached Mexicali at the California border last week. An estimated 400 people, mainly women, and children are expected to reach the border after the month-long journey.
David Lopez, 25, who arrived in Tijuana yesterday with his wife and 3-year-old daughter saying they left Honduras because of, "organized crime and our country's government." The Honduran government has killed at least 16 people since protests broke out after a controversial presidential election last November. The small country already had one of the world’s highest homicide rates and corruption indices.
U.S. officials report that today's arrival is the biggest and most public from the caravan. Experts and attorneys are on hand to give legal counsel to the arrivals "so that people really know what they're getting into," said Nicole Ramos, who has worked closely with asylum applicants.