Tensions are high along the southern U.S. border as the workweek gets started. The Beaumont Enterprise and several other Texas newspapers published front-page stories about U.S. border agents firing tear gas at a group of migrants after some of them attempted to get through fencing south of San Diego. Reports say those trying to get through were part of the so-called migrant caravan from Central America that has now reached Tijuana.
Maya Averbuch is covering this story for The New York Times, and says the migrants mostly went around the Mexican Federal Police who were trying to block their route to the border – that’s when U.S. border agents used the tear gas.
“They were headed to the border. I think many people who were part of the group, which is a small contingent in comparison to the overall caravan, were hoping to either get through the U.S. border and be allowed to pass, or to have some sort of dialogue with U.S. authorities over what sort of solutions could be found to their immigration problem,” Averbuch says.
Averbuch says the migrants tried to reach the border through various points of entry. First, she says they tried the pedestrian crossing, but it was closed. Then they tried to enter through the vehicle crossing, on foot – that was also closed. Lastly, they tried the train crossing.
“At all those points … they were in sight of CPB [Customs and Border Protection] officials on the other end,” Averbuch says.
Averbuch says about 500 people were part of the group that tried to cross the border, but the entire caravan is comprised of about 5,000 people and most of them are staying at a sports center in Tijuana that the local government turned into a temporary shelter. She says the caravan members have been there for about 10 days, and others are still arriving.
“The whole first caravan voted to collectively go to Tijuana and so that’s where almost the entire group went,” Averbuch says. “Obviously, some people from the original group peeled off and went in different directions, and other people joined along the way, but the vast majority of the first caravan … decided a couple weeks ago to go directly to Tijuana.”
She says that’s because that route is safer than the ones to other border states like Texas.
Some news outlets have reported that Mexico says it will deport migrants who try to cross into the U.S. illegally. Averbuch says the Mexican government detained 39 people Sunday, and it might deport those who’ve been accused of disrupting the public order. But it most likely won’t deport the many families who were trying to cross.
“Many families who were participating yesterday who were just trying to get as close to the border as possible to see what they could do, what they could get and didn’t at all consider their actions to be hostile – I think its unlikely that there’ll be a roundup of all of those people,” Averbuch says.
Written by Caroline Covington.