Half of ‘caravan’ asylum seekers in U., Sessions puts judges on border
At least 88 Central American asylum seekers from a caravan through Mexico had crossed into the United States by May 2, a movement that prompted U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to beef up legal resources on the border.
Dozens more remain just outside the entrance to the port of entry in a makeshift camp, waiting to plead their case.
Women, children and transgender people were among those who waited for hours inside the walkway to the U.S. gate before being allowed to pass through to begin the asylum process.
Settling down for their fourth night in the camp, some migrants were sanguine, encouraged by the day’s flood of their companions who had crossed into the United States.
“It’s been more than a month,” said Linda Zuniga, 40, drawing on a cigarette. “What’s one more day?”
Zuniga, who fled El Salvador after threats from the brutal MS-13 gang to her 15-year-old son, said she was hopeful her turn would come soon.
Other migrants wandered among boxes of cereal and diapers in a labyrinth of giant tents, near-luxury conditions for the bedraggled migrants, compared to the scarcity they had endured for weeks on their journey through Mexico to the U.S. border.
On May 2, U.S. officials let in three groups totaling 63 migrants, a dramatic uptick from the trickle permitted since April 30.
Border officials had allowed through only a few at a time, saying the busy San Ysidro crossing to San Diego was saturated and the rest must wait their turn.
In response, the Justice Department was sending 35 additional assistant U.S. attorneys and 18 immigration judges to the border, Sessions said, linking the decision to the caravan.
“We are sending a message worldwide: Don’t come illegally. Make your claim to enter America in the lawful way and wait your turn,” he said, adding that he would not let the country be “overwhelmed.”
Despite unusual attention on the annual, awareness-raising caravan after President Donald Trump took issue with it last month, the most recent data through December does not show a dramatic change in the number of Central Americans seeking asylum.
Apprehensions of people crossing to the United States illegally from Mexico were at their highest in March since December 2016, before Trump took office.
More than 100 members of the caravan, most from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, have been camped in the square near the entrance of the San Ysidro pedestrian bridge from Mexico to the United States, waiting for their turn to enter the checkpoint.