TIJUANA, MEXICO (Reuters) - Seventy men, women and children poured through a U.S. port of entry early Friday to seek asylum, the largest single group yet accepted by U.S. officials from the caravan of Central American migrants that enraged President Donald Trump.
Fleeing Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, the migrants were among the last who had planned to ask for asylum, bringing the total to 228 who have crossed the border since last weekend.
The nearly 400 migrants who reached Tijuana last week faced wrenching dilemmas about whether to enter the United States and request asylum, beginning an indefinite and complex process that could end in deportation. Many decided to stay in Mexico for now.
After a month-long, 2,000-mile journey, their arrival at the border was hotly anticipated. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions beefed up legal resources on the border this week to handle people from the caravan.
Trump had urged that the caravan to be detained and repeated his call for stronger border security Monday morning, writing on Twitter, “Our Southern Border is under siege.”
The Trump administration said on Friday it will end temporary protections on Jan. 5, 2020 for up to 57,000 Honduran immigrants who arrived in the United States in the wake of Hurricane Mitch two decades ago. Temporary protection is different than the asylum status being claimed by members of the caravan.
Just after 9 a.m., the migrants lined up to enter the long passageway between the countries. In single file, they walked straight through, mothers carrying teddy bears in one hand and small children in another.
Among them was Irma Rivera, 31, with a son in her arms and a daughter prancing ahead.
They had walked this route yesterday, led to the U.S. gate with a large group of migrants only to be turned back.
As they reached a bend in the walkway on Friday, the view opened onto American soil and a large U.S. flag.
“Where is the wall? I want to climb Trump’s wall,” said the boy, four years old. His mother laughed, tears glistening. There was no wall in sight, only a chance to join a long-lost brother in Texas and begin a new life.
Her husband, a farmer, was killed late last year in El Salvador by a gang of farmers he had denounced for robbing his land, she said.
In Mexico outside the port of entry, the remaining migrants were joined in a makeshift camp by other would-be asylum-seekers who had come seeking information and donations.
Meanwhile, the caravan’s organizers scrambled to collect migrants’ names to track their dispersal across U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) centers after they exit the port of entry’s detention facility in coming days.
Reporting by Delphine Schrank; editing by Julia Love and Phil Berlowitz