Mexico will deport about 500 migrants who on Sunday tried to “violently” and “illegally” cross the US border, according to the Mexican interior ministry in a statement.
The statement added that Mexican authorities had contained the protest at the crossing between Tijuana and San Diego and that, despite heightened tensions there, Mexico would not send military forces to control 7,417 migrants from a caravan currently amassed at the US-Mexico border.
The US closed the border crossing with Mexico on Sunday after Mexican police broke up a protest of central American migrants in Tijuana, scattering some demonstrators toward the border where US officers hurled gas canisters from the American side.
Traffic in both directions was suspended at the San Ysidro port of entry between San Diego and Tijuana, the US Customs and Border Protection agency said on Twitter.
US President Donald Trump has raised alarms about a caravan of central American migrants as it approached the United States, with its members planning to apply for asylum on reaching the country.
Would be very SMART if Mexico would stop the Caravans long before they get to our Southern Border, or if originating countries would not let them form (it is a way they get certain people out of their country and dump in U.S. No longer). Dems created this problem. No crossings!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 25, 2018
Tensions on the border had been rising in recent days, with thousands of migrants camped out in a sports stadium in Tijuana and hundreds periodically gathering near the main border crossing. The migrants have said they would wait there until they could request asylum, despite growing US measures to tighten the border.
As the morning wore on, and it became clear they would not get permission, people started to express frustration.
A small group broke off and headed a few hundred metres away to a part of a canal between Tijuana and San Diego that led to the border fence.
At that point, before the group had reached the border, US Customs and Border Protest officers who had gathered on the other side of the fence launched canisters of what a Reuters reporter said felt and smelled like pepper.
Protesters were caught between the Mexican and US authorities. A young woman fell to the ground unconscious, and two babies cried, tears streaming from the gas.
After running to relative safety a few hundred metres away, hundreds of the caravan members held a sit-in.
Later, immigrants again approached the border in groups and were met by a further volley of canisters emitting large clouds of gas.
Trump has deployed military forces to the border to support the border patrol and threatened on Saturday to close the entire southern border. But Sunday’s action affected only the San Ysidro crossing, the busiest port of entry between the US and Mexico.
Trump also tweeted on Saturday that migrants at the US-Mexico border would stay in Mexico until their asylum claims were individually approved in US courts, but Mexico’s incoming government denied any deal had been struck.