US reopens portion of Mexico border it shut down after firing tear gas at migrants when some stormed the port of entry

  • Authorities used tear gas on groups that are believed to be from the Central American migrant caravan Sunday after a group estimated to be in the hundreds stormed a US port of entry.
  • Migrants walked from a makeshift shelter in Tijuana, Mexico to head to San Ysidro, the largest port of entry on the southern US border to confront border authorities and make asylum claims.
  • All crossings reopened shortly after 5 p.m. local time on Sunday.
  • Mexico’s interior ministry said in a statement that it would deport migrants from the 500-strong group that had “violently” tried to cross the US border.
  • The confrontation comes less than a day after President Donald Trump tweeted that the United States will no longer allow asylum-seekers to enter the country until their claims are approved by a judge.

US border authorities fired tear gas in a clash with members of a migrant caravan after a group estimated to be in the hundreds stormed a US port of entry, according to video and photos posted to social media from journalists on the ground.

Migrants came in contact with officials after they left a makeshift shelter in Tijuana to head for San Ysidro, the largest port of entry on the southern US border. It has been reported nearly 5,000 migrants from the Central American caravan were being held in the Mexican city.

After police blocked a bridge, migrants crossed the Tijuana River on foot before approaching the port.

Officials suspended northbound and southbound vehicle and pedestrian crossings for several hours, a CBP spokesperson said. All crossings reopened shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday.

Associated Press correspondent Chris Sherman tweeted that the US Border Patrol had launched tear gas toward the Mexican side of the border and the chemical carried for hundreds of yards.

Ana Zuniga, a 23-year-old from Honduras was carrying her 3-year old daughter.

“We ran but when you run the smoke smothers you more,” she told Sherman, who reported migrants had been seen attempting to peel back metal sheeting and make a hole in a barrier’s barbed wire.

The clash followed weeks of tension

Irineo Mujica, who has accompanied the migrants for weeks with aid group Pueblo Sin Fronteras, told the Associated Press the aim of Sunday’s march toward the US border was to garner attention for the migrants’ plight from US and Mexican citizens and governments.

“We can’t have all these people here,” Mujica told The Associated Press.

The 5,000-strong group of migrants has been a strain on the city, as evidenced by Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum’s declaration of a humanitarian crisis and request for United Nations aid, Friday, after the city strained to accommodate the group.

MSNBC reported from the ground that the migrants had planned a demonstration after becoming fed up with the conditions of the shelter, and walked approximately half a mile to confront authorities with in-person asylum requests.

The footage also captured several military drones above the crowd, in addition to what were reportedly US helicopters.

Federal officials defend the response

A CBP spokesperson said Sunday evening that officials were still gathering accounts from agents and officers who were deployed to the border but said there were “multiple instances of persons throwing projectiles at CBP personnel,” and multiple apprehensions by border agents of persons who attempted to cross the north and southbound lanes of the port of entry illegally.

As a response to the incidents, CBP confirmed agents deployed “crowd dispersing devices,” which included pepper ball launching systems and CS canisters, commonly known as tear gas.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the agents’ response in a Sunday evening statement that said the actions were necessary after some migrants attempted to “breach legacy fence infrastructure along the border and sought to harm CBP personnel.”

“As I have continually stated, DHS will not tolerate this type of lawlessness and will not hesitate to shut down ports of entry for security and public safety reasons,” Nielsen said. “We will also seek to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anyone who destroys federal property, endangers our frontline operators, or violates our nation’s sovereignty.”

Nielsen also said a combined effort among federal and state authorities in the US will maintain “a robust presence along the Southwest Border and at our ports of entry to prevent illegal entry or violence.”

Nielsen continued: “We continue to stay in close contact with Mexican authorities and we remain committed to resolving this situation safely in concert with our Mexican partners.”

Mexico’s interior ministry said in a statement that it would deport migrants from the 500-strong group that had “violently” tried to cross the US border.

It added that Mexican authorities responded to a protest at the crossing between Tijuana and San Diego but it would not be sending military forces there to contain the 7,417 migrants that had gathered at the border.

President Donald Trump tweeted Monday morning to flatly state that no migrants were welcome to cross the border, and said Mexico would be responsible for removing them.

“Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries,” Trump wrote. “Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it anyway you want, but they are NOT coming into the U.S.A. We will close the Border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the WALL!”

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The confrontation came a day after President Donald Trump tweeted that the United States will no longer allow asylum-seekers to enter the country until their claims are approved by a judge.

“Migrants at the Southern Border will not be allowed into the United States until their claims are individually approved in court,” he tweeted, adding that “we only will allow those who come into our Country legally,” though asylum-seekers often do legally enter the country at ports of entry before requesting asylum.

Read more:

‘All will stay in Mexico’: Trump says the US will bar asylum-seekers from entering the country until judges approve their claims

Trump previously signed an executive order barring asylum for migrants who cross the border illegally, though US immigration law explicitly permits migrants to request asylum no matter how they entered the country.

A federal judge blocked Trump’s asylum ban earlier this week, arguing that Trump “may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden.”

The White House did not return a request for comment.

Michelle Mark contributed reporting.

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