Earlier this year, the Pueblo Sin Fronteras Caravan began with around 1,000 people in the Mexican city of Tapachula, near the Guatemalan border. At one point, the caravan swelled to more than 2,000 people as the group slowly moved through Mexico.
Over the last few weeks, the caravan reduced in size and of those 2,000, only about 200 remain. Over the weekend, the 200 asylum-seekers reached Tijuana where they engaged in legal orientations to understand their rights and learn what they might expect at the U.S. port of entry when requesting asylum.
Most of the asylum-seekers come from Honduras, where violence and crime rates have skyrocketed. The Central American country saw a murder rate last year of nearly 43 per 100,000 residents. To compare, the average murder rate in several large U.S. cities in 2016 was about 5 per 100,000 residents (though several large cities in the U.S. have much higher murder rates).
At about 4:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon, the first fifty of the some 200 asylum-seekers attempted to cross the San Ysidro Port of Entry to try and officially begin the process of requesting safe haven.
In a statement issued earlier on Sunday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said the San Ysidro Port of Entry had already reached capacity for people without documentation.
"Depending upon port circumstances at the time of arrival, those individuals may need to wait in Mexico as CBP officers work to process those already within our facilities,'' McAleenan said in a statement. "As sufficient space and resources become available, CBP officers will be able to take additional individuals into the port for processing.''
Some people on the American side of the border are supporting the group of migrants from Central America. Claudia Teminio, a refugee from El Salvador who came to the U.S. when she was 12, was among dozens of supporters who came to rally in support of the migrants over the weekend at Border Field State Park.
"We are hoping that through all the attention that we have created for these folks, we're able to uplift their stories and perhaps continue to help them as they continue to embark on their journey," Treminio said.
Some migrants attempted to cross the border near San Ysidro through a "dark, treacherous canyon that is notorious for human and drug smuggling," Customs and Border Protection officials said Saturday.
CBP Chief Patrol Agent Rodney Scott said the remaining caravan members should follow the law.
``If anyone has encouraged you to illegally enter the United States, or make any false statements to U.S. government officials, they are giving you bad advice and they are placing you and your family at risk,'' he said.
``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. On a national level that front door is the Ports of Entry. If you enter the United States at any place other than a Port of Entry it is a crime.''
Photos: Mark Mennie