x

Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

'Caravan' of Central American migrants enters US in defiance of Trump

The migrants who crossed from Mexico may now face a long legal path

Central American migrants travelling in the "Migrant Via Crucis" caravan sleep outside "El Chaparral" port of entry to US while waiting to be received by US authorities, in Tijuana, Baja California State, Mexico on April 30, 2018. Guillermo Arias / AFP
Central American migrants travelling in the "Migrant Via Crucis" caravan sleep outside "El Chaparral" port of entry to US while waiting to be received by US authorities, in Tijuana, Baja California State, Mexico on April 30, 2018. Guillermo Arias / AFP

US border inspectors allowed some Central American asylum-seekers to enter the country for processing, ending a brief impasse over lack of space. Now, the migrants who crossed Mexico in a caravan may face a long legal path.

US Customs and Border Protection didn't say how many caravan members were allowed in Monday, but organisers said there were eight.

About 140 others were still waiting in Mexico to turn themselves in at San Diego's San Ysidro border crossing, the nation's busiest, said Alex Mensing, project organiser for Pueblo Sin Fronteras, which is leading the caravan.

"The spirits are high, there was good news for everybody", Mr Mensing said on the Mexican side of the crossing, moments after learning that some were allowed in.

American lawyers who volunteered advice in Tijuana last week warned the Central Americans that parents may be separated from their children and be detained for many months while their asylum cases are processed.

Asylum-seekers are typically held up to three days at the border and turned over to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. If they pass an asylum officer's initial screening, they may be detained or released with ankle monitors while their cases wind their way through immigration court, which can take years.

Nearly 80 per cent of asylum-seekers passed the initial screening from October through December, but few are likely to win asylum.

The denial rate for El Salvadorans seeking asylum was 79 per cent from 2012 to 2017, according to Syracuse University's Transactional Records Action Clearinghouse. Hondurans were close behind, with a 78 per cent denial rate, followed by Guatemalans at 75 per cent.

_______________

Read more:

US stops caravan of Central American migrants at border

_______________

Trump government officials have railed against what they call "legal loopholes" and "catch-and-release" policies that allow people seeking asylum to be freed while their cases are adjudicated. The president tweeted on Monday that the caravan "shows how weak & ineffective US immigration laws are".

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has pledged to send more immigration judges to the border if needed and threatened criminal prosecution. On Monday, the US Justice Department said it filed illegal entry charges against 11 people identified as caravan members.

US Customs and Border Protection said it processed hundreds of asylum-seekers in the previous week, many of them Mexican, which contributed to a bottleneck that led inspectors to turn away caravan members since they arrived late on Sunday afternoon.

But the asylum-seekers didn't appear to be thrown off the by the delay.

Elin Orrellana, 23, a pregnant woman from El Salvador, said she is fleeing the violent MS-13 street gang, a favourite target of both Mr Sessions and Mr Trump because of their killings in communities in the US. She said her older sister had been killed by the gang in El Salvador, so she is attempting to join other family members in the Kansas City area.

"Fighting on is worth it," she said as she camped outside the border crossing on a chilly Sunday night.

Customs and Border Protection has room for about 300 people at the San Diego border crossing.

"As in the past, when we've had to limit the number of people we can bring in for processing at a given time. We expect that this will be a temporary situation," the agency said.

During a surge of Haitian arrivals at the San Diego crossing in 2016, Customs and Border Protection required people to wait more than five weeks in Mexico. Since then, smaller increases in the number of Mexican asylum-seekers have caused delays of several hours.