Mexico has said it will immediately deport up to 500 migrants from Central America who “violently and illegally” sought to cross the US border – pushing past Mexican people and causing US agents to fire tear gas to disperse them.
The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency suspended all crossings at the San Diego-Tijuana entry point, after hundreds of migrants stormed their way through a blockade of Mexican police and a small number sought to open a space in a roll of razor wire.
With the Mexican police overwhelmed, US agents dispersed the migrants by firing or throwing tear gas. Images taken at the location showed clouds of tear gas hanging in the air, and people moving away from the border.
The crossing remained closed for several hours.
Pedestrian East and West are open at the San Ysidro port of entry for both northbound and southbound crossings.— CBP San Diego (@CBPSanDiego) November 25, 2018
“As the demonstrations on the Mexican side reached the border area, some members of the demonstration split off to head towards multiple locations along the border,” the CBP said in a statement.
“Some attempted to enter the US both directly east and west of the border crossing. These attempts to illegally enter the US, and the response to them continue.”
Officials later said they were reopening foot crossings at the entry point, said to be the busiest such place in the world and where 90,000 enter the US every day, most of them day labourers.
Meanwhile, Mexico’s interior ministry said it had retaken control of its side of the border crossing and would, in conjunction with the national institute of migration, the government agency responsible for controlling who is permitted to enter the country, deport up to 500 people “who participated in these violent events”. It said rather than helping the migrants’ objectives, the “provocative acts” had violated “the legal migration framework”.
The Associated Press said around 5,000 migrants have been camped in and around a sports complex in Tijuana after making their way through Mexico in recent weeks in a series of caravans. Many hope to apply for asylum in the US, but agents at the San Ysidro entry point are processing fewer than 100 asylum petitions a day.
The vast majority of the migrants are from countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, which suffer from the debilitating levels of violence perpetrated by gangs linked to the US drugs trade, and grinding poverty.
Ahead of the midterm elections, Mr Trump seized on the migrants as a means of rallying his supporters and warned of “an invasion”.
Over the weekend, Mr Trump suggested Mexico had agreed a deal to allow asylum-seekers to wait in the country while their claims move through US immigration courts. The Washington Post had quoted Mexico’s incoming interior minister Olga Sanchez to say president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador agreed to allow migrants to stay in Mexico as a “short-term solution”.
Hours later, the newspaper said she had denied any deal had been done, saying: “There is no agreement of any sort between the incoming Mexican government and the US government.