TIJUANA, Mexico, May 5, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – The last of a group of 228 Central American migrants who had camped out on the US-Mexican border after crossing Mexico in a caravan have entered the United States to request asylum, activists said Friday.
The asylum-seekers were the most visible remnants of the “Migrant Way of the Cross,” a caravan that set out from southern Mexico on March 25 with more than 1,000 people, infuriating US President Donald Trump.
After Trump demanded Mexico stop the migrants and ordered the National Guard to the border, the caravan quietly dispersed.
But a large group including many families with children traveled en masse to Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, and insisted on being allowed to enter the United States to request asylum, in accordance with international law.
After letting them through in a trickle over the course of several days, US border officers granted entry to the last 83 members of that group on Friday, said Alex Mensing, a member of People Without Borders (Pueblo Sin Fronteras), the organization behind the caravan.
“We’re hoping they won’t have their children taken away. (US authorities) have been separating families, which is unjust,” said Mensing.
He said the migrants were fleeing brutal violence at the hands of powerful street gangs that have given countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala some of the highest murder rates in the world.
“We’re also hoping they won’t be detained indefinitely… because the US has signed international agreements saying that legal asylum-seekers who do not present a flight or security risk must be given the right to a hearing,” he said.
The Trump administration has warned that any migrants making false immigration claims will be prosecuted.
The caravan is an annual tradition dating back to 2010, aimed at drawing attention to the plight of destitute Central Americans crossing Mexico in search of a better life.
Mexico came under intense pressure from Trump, who also threatened to axe the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — which he called Mexico’s “cash cow” — if the caravan was not stopped.
Instead, the Mexican authorities gave the migrants temporary visas to decide if they wanted to seek refuge in Mexico, go home or keep trudging toward the United States.