TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) – Organizers say nearly 200 Central American migrants who traveled in a caravan of asylum seekers to the U.S.-Mexico border have decided to turn themselves in to U.S. authorities.
Bliss Requa-Trautz of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network says they’re getting a final briefing Sunday before heading to the San Diego border crossing to seek asylum.
If border inspectors say they don’t have staff and space to accommodate that many people at once, organizers say they’ll put women with children and children traveling alone at the front of the line. The rest will stay in Mexico and try another day.
Heather Crone of advocacy group Show Up for Racial Justice says she’s found 80 people across the U.S. who agreed to sponsor caravan members if they’re released while their petitions are pending.
Asylum seekers are often released to family in the U.S. but some don’t have any and seek sponsors.
Why this caravan is unlike others
Similar migrant caravans have ventured toward the US border for the last several years. But this trip has become better known because of critical tweets from Trump and the heightened controversy surrounding immigration policy.
Trump has encouraged Mexico to break up the caravans and tweeted that he would not accept the migrants into the country.
“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,” Trump wrote.
“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.
Chief Patrol Agent Rodney S. Scott of the US Customs and Border Protection said several groups of people associated with the caravan illegally entered the United States by climbing over a metal fence.
“We are a very welcoming country but just like your own house, we expect everyone to enter through our front door, and answer questions honestly,” he said in a statement.
It is not illegal to enter the country at a port of entry and ask for asylum, as international law requires that the United States consider asylum claims. The migrants say they’re not planning to sneak across the border, but to turn themselves in peacefully and ask for asylum.
“People who have a legitimate fear of persecution under US law have a right to present their case,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the top Democrat on the House subcommittee on immigration, said on Monday. “That’s not a violation of immigration law. That’s a part of immigration law.”
In general, having asylum granted is difficult. More than three-quarters of immigrants seeking asylum from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala between 2011 and 2016 lost their cases, according to immigration court statistics published by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.