US border authorities block Central American migrant caravan

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US officials have told would-be asylum seekers at the Mexican border that the crossing is too full to process their cases. The migrants have already drawn the wrath of US President Trump during their trek through Mexico.

More than a hundred migrants from Central American countries have camped out at the US-Mexican border after being told by US border inspectors on Sunday that a crossing facility had no capacity for them.

It was not immediately clear whether the migrants, who have traveled 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) through Mexico to the border at Tijuana, would be turned back or allowed in later.

“We have reached capacity at the San Ysidro port of entry,” US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said in a statement. He added that the asylum seekers might need to wait temporarily in Mexico.

Organizers of the caravan expressed surprise that border inspectors were not ready to receive the group.

“They have been well aware that a caravan is going to arrive at the border,” Nicole Ramos, a lawyer working on behalf of caravan members, told a news conference. “We can build a base in Iraq in under a week. We can’t process 200 refugees. I don’t believe it.”

Cracking down on immigration

US President Donald Trump, who has vowed to crack down on illegal immigration, particularly from Mexico, has frequently expressed his displeasure since the caravan started out from near the Guatemala border on March 25. He called on immigration officials to be rigorous in enforcing rules to stop any unlawful entry.

His administration has also pledged to end policies that allow asylum seekers to be released from custody into the US while their claims are undergoing processing by the courts.

The majority of asylum seekers from Central America ends up being denied refuge in the US. Most of those making a claim are usually kept in detention centers until their hearings take place — something that can take years.

Many of the caravan members have said they are fleeing death threats by local gangs, retaliatory rape and political persecution in their native countries, which include Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

tj/msh (Reuters, AP)

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