US Border Patrol shot tear gas and rubber bullets at a group of migrants, including toddlers, as members of the caravan tried to storm the border.
Children were screaming and coughing in the mayhem at the San Ysidro Port of Entry when American agents tried to push the surging Central Americans back.
They started to use crowd control on Sunday afternoon when migrants tried to cut a hole in the concertina wire gap on the Mexican side of the fence.
The tensions prompted US officials to close the crossing between Tijuana and San Diego, stopping thousands of people traveling legitimately between the US and Mexico.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she would not put up with this ‘lawlessness’ and threatened harsh punishments on ‘anyone who destroys federal property, endangers our frontline operators, or violates our sovereignty’.
She later added that border personnel was ‘struck by projectiles thrown by caravan members’. She condemned those responsible for their ‘dangerous’ actions that were ‘not consistent with peacefully seeking asylum’.
Mexico also vowed to deport about 500 migrants who tried to ‘violently’ and ‘illegally’ cross the U.S. border on Sunday, according to the Mexican Interior Ministry in a statement.
The statement added that Mexican authorities had contained the protest at the crossing between Tijuana and San Diego.
Despite heightened tensions there, Mexico said they would not send military forces to control 7,417 migrants from a caravan currently amassed at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Honduran migrant Ana Zuniga, 23, said she saw migrants open a small hole in concertina wire at a gap on the Mexican side of a levee, at which point U.S. agents fired tear gas at them.
‘We ran, but when you run the gas asphyxiates you more,’ she told the AP while cradling her 3-year-old daughter Valery in her arms.
Mexico’s Milenio TV also showed images of several migrants at the border trying to jump over the fence.
Yards away on the U.S. side, shoppers streamed in and out of an outlet mall.
U.S. Border Patrol helicopters flew overhead, while U.S. agents held a vigil on foot beyond the wire fence in California.
‘Today, several migrants threw projectiles at the agents in San Diego,’ Customs and Border Protection tweeted on Sunday.
‘Border Patrol agents deployed tear gas to dispel the group because of the risk to agents’ safety.
‘Several agents were hit by the projectiles. The situation is evolving and a statement is forthcoming.’
The Border Patrol office in San Diego said via Twitter that pedestrian crossings have been suspended at the San Ysidro port of entry at both the East and West facilities.
All northbound and southbound traffic was halted.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer tweeted on Sunday: ‘It is critical that U.S. and Mexican federal leaders work together to safely resolve the migrant crisis.
‘Our way of life relies on a safe, secure and functioning border.
‘From travel to shipping to daily commutes between San Diego and Tijuana, it is essential to our community.’
Earlier Sunday, several hundred Central American migrants pushed past a blockade of Mexican police who were standing guard near the international border crossing.
They appeared to easily pass through without using violence, and some of the migrants called on each other to remain peaceful.
They convened the demonstration to try to pressure the U.S. to hear their asylum claims and carried hand-painted American and Honduran flags while chanting: ‘We are not criminals! We are international workers!’
A second line of Mexican police carrying plastic riot shields stood guard outside a Mexican customs and immigration plaza.
That line of police had installed tall steel panels behind them outside the Chaparral crossing on the Mexican side of the border.
Migrants were asked by police to turn back toward Mexico.
More than 5,000 migrants have been camped in and around a sports complex in Tijuana after making their way through Mexico in recent weeks via caravan.
Many hope to apply for asylum in the U.S., but agents at the San Ysidro entry point are processing fewer than 100 asylum petitions a day.
Irineo Mujica, who has accompanied the migrants for weeks as part of the aid group Pueblo Sin Fronteras, said the aim of Sunday’s march toward the U.S. border was to make the migrants’ plight more visible to the governments of Mexico and the U.S.
‘We can’t have all these people here,’ Mujica told The Associated Press.
Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum on Friday declared a humanitarian crisis in his border city of 1.6 million, which he says is struggling to accommodate the crush of migrants.
U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter Sunday to express his displeasure with the caravans in Mexico.
‘Would be very SMART if Mexico would stop the Caravans long before they get to our Southern Border, or if originating countries would not let them form (it is a way they get certain people out of their country and dump in the U.S. No longer),’ he wrote.
Mexico’s Interior Ministry said Sunday the country has sent 11,000 Central Americans back to their countries of origin since Oct. 19. It said that 1,906 of them were members of the recent caravans.
Mexico is on track to send a total of around 100,000 Central Americans back home by the end of this year.
Earlier on Sunday, Nielsen tweeted Sunday: ‘This AM, @CBP was forced to close the #SanYsidro POE to ensure public safety in response to a large # of migrants seeking to illegally enter the US.
‘They attempted to breach legacy fence infrastructure along the border & sought to harm CBP personnel by throwing projectiles @ them.
‘@DHS will not tolerate this type of lawlessness & will not hesitate to shut down POEs for security reasons.
‘We’ll seek to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anyone who destroys federal property, endangers our frontline operators, or violates our sovereignty.
‘#CBP along w other DHS, federal, state & local law enforcement, & the @DeptofDefense, have a robust presence along the SW Border and at our POEs. We remain in close contact with Mexican authorities and are committed to resolving this situation safely in concert with them.’
In a later tweet, she condemned members of the caravan throwing objects at border personnel. She wrote: ‘Today CBP (Customs and Border Protection) personnel were struck by projectiles thrown by caravan members.
‘Such actions are dangerous & not consistent w peacefully seeking asylum. The perpetrators will be prosecuted. I will continue to aggressively support DHS personnel as they work to safely secure our border.’
On Friday night, a mother-of-two was impaled after she tried to scale a US-Mexico border fence in San Diego.
According to the US Border Patrol, the 26-year-old woman from Guatemala was with her two children, aged three and five, when she climbed the fence near the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that she climbed a fence east of the port and where construction crews were putting up a new barrier to replace the old fencing.
The mother lost her balance and fell, and pieces of rebar pierced her side and buttocks.
Border Patrol told the Union-Tribune that it was dispatched to give medical aid around 8.30pm and asked for help from the San Diego Fire Department.
The woman was taken to the hospital by paramedics with non-life threatening injuries.
Her children were also evaluated for trauma and, when they were cleared, were released to the custody of Border Patrol.
No information was available on whether the woman was planning to claim asylum in the US.
Border Patrol Agent Eduardo Olmos told City News Service that the woman told agents she was not part of the migrant caravan that arrived in Tijuana last week.
‘Entering our country illegally, particularly over our walls is not only dangerous, but also very foolish,’ San Diego’s Chief Border Patrol Agent Rodney Scott said on Saturday.
‘This woman placed her own life and her children’s lives in peril. She could have easily died if not for the quick response by our agents and EMS.’
Officials say the rebar was part of ongoing construction and not related to the US military’s recent mission to fortify the fence from the caravan.
Trump on Sunday continued to comment on the hot-button topic of his administration’s immigration policy.
The President reacted to a 60 Minutes segment which found that the family separation policy, in which migrant children were detained separately from their parents, was implemented earlier and in greater numbers than was originally acknowledged.
Trump claimed that the family separation policy was initially implemented by the Obama administration, though this is incorrect.
’60 Minutes did a phony story about child separation when they know we had the exact same policy as the Obama Administration,’ the President tweeted.
‘In fact, a picture of children in jails was used by other Fake Media to show how bad (cruel) we are, but it was in 2014 during O years.
‘Obama separated children from parents, as did Bush etc. because that is the policy and law.
‘I tried to keep them together but the problem is, when you do that, vast numbers of additional people storm the Border.
‘So with Obama operation is fine, but with Trump, it’s not. Fake 60 Minutes!’
On Saturday, Trump claimed on his Twitter account that he and the incoming Mexican government agreed to hold asylum seekers south of the border while their claims were processed in U.S. courts.
Trump tweeted on Saturday: ‘Migrants at the Southern Border will not be allowed into the United States until their claims are individually approved in court.
‘We only will allow those who come into our Country legally. Other than that our very strong policy is Catch and Detain. No “Releasing” into the U.S…
‘All will stay in Mexico. If for any reason it becomes necessary, we will CLOSE our Southern Border.
‘All will stay in Mexico. If for any reason it becomes necessary, we will CLOSE our Southern Border.
‘There is no way that the United States will, after decades of abuse, put up with this costly and dangerous situation anymore!’
Trump’s tweet comes after Mexican officials said there was ‘no agreement of any type’ between its Government and the United States that will require asylum seekers to wait in the country while their claims move through U.S. courts.
Olga Sanchez Cordero, the top domestic policy official for president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who takes office on December 1, ruled out that Mexico would be declared a ‘safe third country’ for asylum claimants.
This followed a Washington Post report of a deal with the Trump administration known as ‘Remain in Mexico,’ which quoted her calling it a ‘short-term solution.’
The plan, according to the newspaper, foresees migrants staying in Mexico while their asylum claims in the United States are being processed, potentially ending a system President Donald Trump decries as ‘catch and release’ that has until now often allowed those seeking refuge to wait on safer US soil.
Their denial surfaced less than an hour after Trump tweeted that migrants wouldn’t be allowed to cross into the United States while they were applying for asylum. He also threatened to close the border ‘if necessary’ following years of abuse.
Meanwhile, an investigation by the Miami Herald revealed that the political violence in Honduras, which has contributed to an exodus of migrants, was sometimes carried out with the US made weapons used by the government’s paramilitary force.
The Honduran military police should not possess US-made rifles sold under private arms licensing agreements, according to the State Department.
Alejandra Martínez, who is now part of the migrant caravan, was targeted by a gang in Honduras who opened fire on him and a group of his friends.
‘We know that the guns come from the United States,” Martínez told the Miami Herald at the time of the bloodshed.
‘These guys have no business in Honduras. They should stay in the United States. They are sending them to Honduras to kill us’.
More than a dozen people were shot and killed by the military police in the post-election violence, including several children, according to United Nations investigators.
More than 30 were wounded by the paramilitary unit, a repressive force that answers directly to the Honduran president.
The migrant caravan that left Honduras in mid-October was mostly well received by the towns it passed through along the way to the border.
Even cities with few resources made sure the migrants had food and a place to rest.
But in those places, the caravan stayed at most two nights with the exception of Mexico City.
In Tijuana, many of the migrants who are fleeing violence and poverty are seeking asylum in the United States and face the prospect of spending months in the border city before they have the opportunity to speak with a US official.
Gastelum said Friday that the Mexican government has talked about sending 20 tons of resources to Tijuana to help but that three-fourths consisted of materials to reinforce the border and only 5 tons were for the migrants.
The mayor also criticized the federal government for not taking more seriously Trump’s threat Thursday to shut down the border if his administration determined Mexico had lost ‘control’ of the situation in Tijuana.
‘That’s serious’, he said.
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