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US immigration

Dramatic scenes as US agents fire tear gas at migrants trying to breach US-Mexico border

  • US border officials temporarily closed the San Ysidro port of entry between Tijuana and San Diego, one of the busiest border crossings in the world
  • US agents shoot tear gas at migrants after some tried to breach fence separating the two countries
PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 November, 2018, 5:26am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 November, 2018, 10:41pm

Mexico pledged to shore up security near its border with the United States and local authorities said that 39 migrants were arrested after a peaceful march devolved into chaos when US agents fired tear gas into Mexico to stop some migrants who tried to breach the border.

Mexico’s Interior Ministry said it would immediately deport those who tried to “violently” enter the US from Tijuana.

Meanwhile, Tijuana’s municipal government said that more than three-dozen migrants were arrested for disturbing the peace and other charges stemming from the march and what followed.

The dramatic incident Sunday took place only three days after US President Trump threatened to close the “whole border” with Mexico if “it gets to a level where we’re going to lose control or people are going to start getting hurt.”

Border officials in San Diego, California, temporarily closed the San Ysidro crossing point - one of the busiest between the two countries – to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Video clips posted on Twitter showed large numbers of migrants dashing across a shallow concrete waterway toward the border.

Several thousand migrants, mostly from Central America, have been gathering in Tijuana in hopes of entering the US.

At least 500 of them, including women and children, had been taking part in a peaceful demonstration in Tijuana before dashing toward the border in an attempt to clamber over a first metal barrier there.

“Are we in the United States yet?” some asked in desperate tones.

Several hundred made it over the first barrier and were trying to cross a second - topped with spikes – when US border officers began firing tear gas at them even as US Army helicopters flew low overhead.

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The migrants tried to protect themselves – covering their faces, with mothers holding their children close.

There were cries of pain, desperation and frustration as the crowd swirled over the border line and back.

Some migrants shouted that they only wanted to make their way to a better life.

But amid the stinging gas, several migrants turned back.

Trump has repeatedly warned that the large group of migrants moving through Mexico toward the US included criminals and possibly terrorists, while providing no evidence to support that.

He has deployed some 9,000 US troops along the border in support of the US Customs and Border Protection agents.

On Sunday, Trump took to Twitter Sunday to express his displeasure with the caravans in Mexico.

“Would be very SMART if Mexico would stop the Caravans long before they get to our Southern Border, or if originating countries would not let them form (it is a way they get certain people out of their country and dump in US No longer),” he wrote.

Approximately 5,000 migrants reached Tijuana over the past week, after an exhausting trip of up to 4,000km (2,500 miles) covered in just over a month. Many were fleeing violence and poverty in Honduras in hopes of finding asylum in the US.

To enter the US legally, migrants must formally apply for asylum, but the wait for those requests to be processed can last up to a year.

Trump signed a proclamation earlier this month to prevent anyone filing asylum claims except at legal ports of entry, but a federal judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked the order, pointing to “irreconcilable conflicts” with immigration law.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that the Trump administration had gained the support of Mexico’s incoming government for a plan to require asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their applications to be processed.

But officials in the incoming administration of President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said later – after The Post report was met by stiff criticism in Mexico -that the agreement was not yet final.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press