Hundreds of Central American migrants traveled north through Mexico for more than a month and only some of them finally arrived at the U.S. border with the aim of seeking asylum — only to be told by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials they were “at capacity.”
The caravan reportedly started with about 1,200-1,500 people. Around 50 asylum seekers made it to the San Ysidro port of entry, citing political oppression and gang violence. It was the first of many groups expected to approach the entryway to the U.S. and also a first glimpse of the kind of welcome they would probably receive in President Donald Trump’s America.
“CBP officials said ‘we are at capacity — at this time we cannot accept any more asylum seekers, you can wait on one side,’” Alex Mensing of Pueblos Sin Fronteras, the group that helped organize the caravan, told BuzzFeed News. “So the asylum seekers are next to the door waiting for whenever it is CBP is capable of receiving asylum seekers."
However, the asylum-seekers who have covered a month-long journey from the Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border are not going to head back to the land they have escaped from. They are vowing to stay outside the immigrant processing center until “every last one" is granted an asylum, according to an organizer with the caravan.
The group may be in high spirits right now, but the amount of time they will have to wait until the situation tips in their favor is indefinite. The president, along with the attorney general and the Department of Homeland Security, has declared such caravans a threat to national security.
"If members of the 'caravan' enter the country illegally, they will be referred for prosecution for illegal entry in accordance with existing law," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement.
Jeff Sessions called the caravan “a deliberate attempt to undermine our laws and overwhelm our system.”
The commander-in-chief’s intention is loud and clear — he wants no caravans filled with asylum-seekers to cross the country’s border.
For instance, earlier this month, he tweeted the caravan "better be stopped before it gets" to the border. Last week, he vowed to stop the annual “Stations of the Cross Caravan” and while addressing his supporters at a rally in Michigan he referred to the convoy of people fleeing to escape violence and poverty as a “mess.”
Despite the Democrat inspired laws on Sanctuary Cities and the Border being so bad and one sided, I have instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security not to let these large Caravans of people into our Country. It is a disgrace. We are the only Country in the World so naive! WALL— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2018
Under the current law, the asylum-seekers are to be granted a fair hearing. If migrants tell the border official the conditions in their country of origin are not safe, they have to be put under consideration.
“We wish the United States government was capable of accepting more than a few hundred asylum seekers at any given time since we can certainly pick up more than a thousand people in an ICE raid on any given day and deport them," Mensing said. "But unfortunately that is not the case. Hopefully one day that is the case."
Moreover, the organizers of the caravan are not buying the border inspectors’ lousy excuse of not being ready for them.
“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. “The failure to prepare, and failure to get sufficient agents and resources is not the fault of the most vulnerable among us. We can build a base in Iraq in under a week. We can’t process 200 refugees. I don’t believe it.”
The plight of these people is undoubtedly sad. Not only are they in state of confusion and anxiety, but also have meager supplies that will eventually run out.
One woman in wheelchair was not only nostalgic about leaving Mexico but was also highly uncertain about what future holds for her.
Every person who is part of the caravan has a story of what prompted them to hit the road for the journey which is not an adventure and for a future that is highly ambiguous. It is a struggle for a better life, for a life where danger doesn’t lurk at every corner and where poverty doesn’t continue to haunt them.
A pregnant mother of two, Gabriela Hernandez, is one of the women who fled Honduras and crossed Guatemala into Mexico to join the group heading north.
"There are people who think I just woke up and said, 'Oh, I want to just go to the United States.' It's not that easy," she said.
Stefany Rodríguez, 23, has traveled with the caravan since Tapachula and for the most part, in heels. Now, she dons flip flops as this trans woman nears the US-Mexico border. “I am going to fight,” she says. @CNNpic.twitter.com/AaKaBiu9CD— Khushbu Shah (@KhushbuOShea) April 29, 2018
Isabel Rodriguez, 52, traveled with her two grandchildren from El Salvador with the caravan for weeks.
"I hear they are separating people who are not parents of children," she said, "but I am ready to get to the border."
We met Isabel Rodriguez, 52, with her two grandchildren - Anderson, 7, and Cristofer, 11, - atop La Bestia a couple weeks ago. They’re from El Salvador and have been with the caravan since Tapachula, like many of this group. Isabel says she is excited to be in Tijuana adding, “I’m grateful but worried.” She adds, “I hear they are separating people who are not parents of children...but I am ready to get to the border.” Not wanting to stay in Mexico, Isabel explains, she is taking the kids to the US because there is a chance for work there. More than Mexico, anyway, according to her. She wants to cook, whatever they will let her make. @cnn
The asylum seekers are apparently not discouraged by the delay. However, it is yet to be seen whether the country’s administration will find a way to accommodate them. As of yet, the U.S. officials have not allowed them to apply for asylum.
Banner Image Credits: REUTERS/Jorge Duenes