Border Patrol begins processing migrants from caravan

ALFREDO ESTRELLA  AFP  Getty Images

The illegal immigrant caravan has turned into a real standoff in Mexico.

Dozens of Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States woke Monday morning on the ground outside a California border crossing after US officials said they did not have enough space to accommodate the group engaged in a high-profile test of Trump administration policies.

Numerous migrants in the caravan had traveled through Central America and were from war-torn Honduras.

But under global law, the USA government is obliged to allow foreigners to apply for asylum.

The first to enter were part of a small group from the caravan who Mexican officials let walk over a pedestrian bridge on Sunday and who have been camped at the San Ysidro gate ever since, when the CBP said the facility between Tijuana and San Diego was saturated.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says a San Diego border crossing facility has reached capacity.

"We're doing the best we can with it".

President Donald Trump and members of his Cabinet have been tracking the caravan, calling it a threat to the USA since it started March 25 in the Mexican city of Tapachula, near the Guatemala border. "We need a wall".

Since Congress failed to agree on a broad immigration package in February, administration officials have made it a legislative priority to end what they call "legal loopholes" and "catch-and-release" policies that allow asylum-seekers to be released from custody while their claims wind through the courts in cases that can last for year.

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Five years ago, Martínez said, her family had been encircled in their home by armed members of the MS-13 gang.

The vast majority, about 65 percent, of likely voters did say that if the Trump administration allows the caravan of Central Americans into the US, it will incentivize more illegal immigration. We can't process 200 refugees.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said didn't say how many were allowed in late Monday but project organizer Alex Mensing of Pueblo Sin Fronteras said there were eight.

"They have been well aware that a caravan is going to arrive at the border", Nicole Ramos, an attorney working on behalf of caravan members, said at a news conference.

Border agents said the caravan is playing it smart so far.

Ten of them face a misdemeanor charge for allegedly entering the U.S. illegally. Instead they are waiting for permission to present themselves.

During migrant surges in the past, the Obama administration erected temporary holding facilities, known as tent cities, and sent more officers to the border to process asylum claims. It can hold about 300 people at a time, and officials had been warning that it might fill up.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency responsible for handling asylum claims, has sent some additional officers to San Ysidro, but immigration advocates working on the ground say their impact is negligible since migrants are unable to cross the border to make their claim. They have to prove a credible fear of persecution in their home country. Only about 20 percent show up for their asylum hearings, Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, said on C-SPAN Monday.

On Monday, Trump railed against a system that may see some of the caravan members freed in the United States until their cases are resolved, because a shortage of beds at detention centers and rules that limit how long women with children can be held. What started off as about 1,500 people, according to organizers, is now down to 150. Some have sought asylum in Mexico.

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