TIJUANA, Mexico — After the long journey and hours of waiting, some migrants who traveled in a caravan moved one step closer to possibly building a life in the U.S.
Eight migrants from the caravan were being processed by U.S. officials at the border, the group Pueblo Sin Fronteras and two observers said Monday night.
The eight were selected by their peers to go forward to apply for asylum, two observers from the Human Rights First group said.
The rest of the migrants remained in the Mexico side of the border, huddled together waiting for their turn to apply for asylum outside an immigration processing center. U.S. Customs and Border Protection began processing undocumented arrivals Monday after saying it had temporarily reached capacity.
“We reached capacity at the San Ysidro port of entry over the weekend and were temporarily unable to bring additional persons traveling without appropriate entry documentation into the port of entry for processing. We began processing undocumented arrivals again on Monday,” CBP said in a statement Monday.
Last week, several hundred migrants traveling from Central America arrived in Tijuana after a month-long journey, traveling by bus, train and on foot. Dozens marched to the San Ysidro port of entry, and have been spending the night there. An organizer of the caravan said they would remain at the immigration processing center until “every last one is admitted into the United States.”
On Monday, tents popped up to house the migrants waiting outside the immigration processing center. Many are women and children fleeing Central American countries wracked by poverty and violence, who are waiting for their opportunity to present their case to U.S. authorities.
Among the eight people who began the asylum process included Gabriela Hernandez, a pregnant mother of two who fled Honduras. She and her two sons, ages 6 and 2, have battled hunger and exhaustion along the month-long journey.
Hernandez left her husband after suffering domestic abuse, but then gang members found her one day, demanding to know where her ex was. They gave her 12 hours to give him up or said they would kill her 6-year-old.
She left that night, with her sons.
Her plan was to present herself to U.S. officials to claim asylum given the danger to her life and her children in Honduras. She just doesn’t have the energy to think what would be next if she is not granted asylum.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said. “I cannot go back to my country.”
Another mother, Tesla Rich who was part of the caravan also joined Hernandez as among the group of eight chosen to begin their asylum claim.
Caravan and politics
The caravan has riled President Donald Trump who called for tougher border security and a wall, and vowed not to let them into the country. Vice President Mike Pence called the caravan, “a deliberate attempt to undermine the laws of this country and the sovereignty of the United States.”
The migrants say they are not sneaking across the border, but that they’re asking for asylum. It is legal to enter the country at a port of entry and ask for asylum, as international law requires that the United States consider these claims.
But Trump has decried the practice of letting immigrants with pending cases leave detention — and he’s vowed his administration will put an end to the policy, which he derides as “catch and release.”
In general, getting asylum granted is difficult. More than three-quarters of immigrants seeking asylum from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala between 2011 and 2016 lost their cases, according to immigration court statistics published by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.