Migrant caravan: Lawyers and judges sent to US-Mexico border

Officials say they are sending a message to the world: Don't enter the US 'illegally'. Advocates say asylum is a right.

    The remaining immigrants are hopeful their asylum applications will be processed [Felix Marquez/AP Photo]
    The remaining immigrants are hopeful their asylum applications will be processed [Felix Marquez/AP Photo]

    Half of the Central Americans from the so-called "immigrant caravan" have been allowed to apply for asylum in the US, according to lawyers on the scene.

    Laura Gault, an asylum lawyer from US-based group Human Rights First, said on Twitter late on Wednesday that about 65 of the 200 people in the caravan, most of whom are from Honduras, were "allowed to exercise their legal right to seek asylum".

    Roughly 70 more were still waiting.

    The 65 people allowed to enter was a sharp increase, as only a few asylum seekers had been allowed in each day for the past week.

    The San Ysidro crossing is in the US state of California, close to the Mexican city of Tijuana. The caravan reached the border last Wednesday.

    Some of the waiting had been told that US border facilities were at capacity and could not accept more applicants, according to Gault.

    Gault is one of many US asylum lawyers who has travelled to the San Ysidro border crossing to observe the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency's conduct regarding the asylum seekers while also offering assistance.

    The Department of Justice, headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has also sent more US officials to the San Ysidro border crossing due to the increase in asylum applications.

    Misdemeanour offence

    Sessions said that an additional 35 assistant US attorneys and 18 immigration judges to the crossing.

    The Department of Justice has also charged 11 possible members of the caravan with illegal entry into the US, a misdemeanour offence.

    "We are sending a message worldwide: Don't come illegally. Make your claim to enter America in the lawful way and wait your turn," Sessions said.

    The caravan is an annual event organised by volunteer group Pueblos Sin Fronteras (PSF), Spanish for "people without borders".

    This year's caravan received media attention after President Donald Trump criticised the group, which travelled 3,220km from southern Mexico to the border in California.

    Trump has called the immigrant caravan a sign of weak US law on migration and said it should be stopped in Mexico.

    The Trump administration initiated a crackdown on undocumented immigrants shortly after the president assumed office in January.

    Gault, the Human Rights First lawyer on the scene, said that Mexican border officials allowed US attorneys "to conduct legal observations" and treat asylum seekers "with kindness".

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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