Tijuana, Mexico.- U.S. border inspectors allowed in the first wave of Central American asylum-seekers to enter the country for processing after a temporary impasse over lack of space to accommodate them.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it processed hundreds of asylum-seekers in the previous week, many of them Mexican, which contributed to a bottleneck that led inspectors to turn away caravan members when they arrived late Sunday afternoon. The agency didn’t say how many caravan members were allowed in, but organizers said there were eight.
About 140 others were still waiting in Mexico to turn themselves in at San Diego’s San Ysidro border crossing, the nation’s busiest, said Alex Mensing, project organizer for Pueblo Sin Fronteras, which is leading the caravan.
“The spirits are high, there was good news for everybody,” Mensing said on the Mexican side of the crossing, moments after learning that some were allowed in.
The Central Americans allowed in after the monthlong journey across Mexico may face a longer journey ahead. Some parents may be separated from their children and be detained for many months while their asylum cases are pending.
Asylum-seekers are typically held up to three days at the border and turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. If they pass an asylum officer’s initial screening, they may be detained or released with ankle monitors while their cases wind through immigration court, which can take years.
Nearly 80 percent of asylum-seekers passed the initial screening from October through December, but few are likely to win asylum.
The denial rate for El Salvadorans seeking asylum was 79 percent from 2012 to 2017, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Action Clearinghouse. Hondurans were close behind with a 78 percent denial rate, followed by Guatemalans at 75 percent.
Trump administration officials have railed against what they call “legal loopholes” and “catch-and-release” policies that allow people seeking asylum to be freed while their cases are adjudicated.