More Central American migrant families attempting illegal crossing to San Diego

The Associated Press

Central American migrants planning to surrender to U.S. border guards climb over the U.S. border wall from Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, late Monday.

The Associated Press TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — The woman crawled under first, squeezing face down through a gap dug under the border fence. The space is only a few inches high, and her feet kicked dust into the air as she wiggled. Next was her 3-year-old daughter, dressed in a pink sweat suit, pushed through to the California side on her back and feet first by a man who stayed in Mexico.

The mother anxiously urged them on. “Hurry,” she said. “I’m right here. It doesn’t matter if you get dirty.”

Fifteen seconds later, the mother and daughter from Honduras were together in the United States. And soon a U.S. Border Protection agent approached in an all-terrain vehicle to take them into custody.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Tuesday that the San Diego sector has experienced a “slight uptick” in families entering the United States illegally and turning themselves in to agents since the caravan of Central American migrants arrived in Tijuana two weeks ago.

Thousands of migrants on the Mexico side of the border are living in crowded tent cities in Tijuana after a grueling journey through Mexico on foot and hitching rides with the goal of applying for asylum in the United States. Frustrated with the long wait to apply, with U.S. officials processing 100 requests at most each day, some migrants are trying to cross over clandestinely.

Rachel Rivera, 19, told The Associated Press that Honduras had become unlivable. Moments before flattening herself under the fence, she said she was slipping through to the United States in an attempt to “give a better life” to her daughter Charlot.

An AP video journalist also witnessed more than two dozen migrants scale a fence between Mexico and the United States on Monday evening. Once across, entire families raised their hands before border patrol agents who arrived swiftly in white trucks.

It’s unclear where the families were taken from there.

On a typical day before the caravan arrived in Tijuana, U.S. border patrol agents in the San Diego area detained about 120 or so people trying to cross the border illegally from Mexico.

President Donald Trump issued a proclamation in November suspending asylum rights for people who try to cross into the country illegally. Rights groups question the legality of that proclamation.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Ralph DeSio said the United States was trying to deter illegal crossings by issuing the proclamation.

The United States has an established process for asylum seekers to present themselves in an “orderly” manner at a port of entry, DeSio told AP via email. “When people choose to ignore that process, they put themselves in danger and, in the case of families, they choose to put the lives of their children at risk.”

Trump took to Twitter again on Tuesday to drum up support for a better border wall, arguing that the expense would be less than the United States incurs each year due to illegal immigration.

People mainly from Honduras but also from El Salvador and Guatemala formed the caravan to Tijuana, seeking safety in numbers while crossing Mexico to avoid criminals and the fees demanded by the gangs that prey on migrants. Dozens of the migrants have told AP they are fleeing poverty and searching for a better life, while many also tell of harrowing violence and death threats back home.

Margarita Lopez, a migrant from Honduras, said she would definitely jump the fence if she got the chance. But in the meantime, Lopez stood in line Tuesday to request a humanitarian visa from Mexican officials that would allow her to live and work in Mexico for a year.Speech

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