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US says crossing is full before caravan tries to seek asylum


AP San Diego (US)
A group of Central Americans who journeyed in a caravan to the US border resolved to turn themselves in and ask for asylum today in a direct challenge to the Trump administration only to have US immigration officials announce that the San Diego crossing was already at capacity.
Nearly 200 migrants, many travelling with children, had decided to apply for protection at the nation's busiest border crossing after many fled violence in their home countries, organisers said. The caravan got attention after President Donald Trump and members of his Cabinet called it a threat to the United States.
Shortly before the migrants were expected to arrive, US Customs and Border Protection said San Diego's San Ysidro crossing would not immediately be able to handle more asylum seekers. It can hold about 300 people at a time, and officials had been warning that it might fill up.
"At this time, we have reached capacity at the San Ysidro port of entry for CBP officers to be able to bring additional persons travelling without appropriate entry documentation into the port of entry for processing," Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said in a statement.
"Those individuals may need to wait in Mexico as CBP officers work to process those already within our facilities."

He said the crossing could take in additional people as space and resources become available. Despite the news, about 200 migrants still started walking toward the port.
Rodulfo Figueroa, the top Mexican immigration official in Baja California state, told caravan organisers to send in an initial group of 20 migrants to see if US border inspectors would entertain their request for asylum.
Figueroa said he doesn't know if they would be allowed in and had not received word from US immigration officials.
Nicole Ramos, an attorney working on behalf of caravan members, expressed disbelief that US authorities cannot process more asylum seekers until its backlog eases.
"They have been well aware that a caravan is going to arrive at the border," she said at a news conference. "The failure to prepare and failure to get sufficient agents and resources is not the fault of the most vulnerable among us. We can build a base in Iraq in under a week. We can't process 200 refugees. I don't believe it." The migrants had made their way north by foot, freight train and bus over the past month, many of them saying they feared for their lives in their home countries.
The Trump administration has been tracking the caravan since it started in Mexico on March 25 near the Guatemala border. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called the caravan "a deliberate attempt to undermine our laws and overwhelm our system."

Administration officials have railed against what they call America's "catch and release" policies that allow people requesting asylum to be released from custody into the US while their claims make their way through the courts, a process that can last a year.

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First Published: Apr 30 2018 | 6:00 AM IST

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