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More members of Central American caravan processed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection as they seek asylum

A wave of hope swept through the campsite of dozens of Central American migrants by the border in Tijuana on Tuesday afternoon after more members of their caravan were allowed into the U.S. Customs and Border Protection offices to request asylum.

A total of 25 caravan migrants have been processed by the agency since the group’s arrival, according to activists from Pueblo Sin Fronteras. On Tuesday morning, six people were allowed in. By 3 p.m., officials accepted 11 more.

After the migrants passed through the port of entry, dozens of caravan members waiting in Tijuana cheered the news. The movement quelled anxieties for those in the camp who were unsure of their future.

“There are still many of us left. But this is a triumph for all of us,” said Gina Garibo, a project coordinator for the group. “This is a fight for all our lives.”

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Mexican immigration officials offered up shelters late Tuesday for the remaining migrants, many of whom were preparing to spend their third night outside. Organizers declined.

“We’re taking care of all our people,” said Alex Mensing of Pueblo Sin Fronteras.

Medics were expected to check on the health of the group, which includes children with coughs and colds, on Wednesday. A day before arriving at the camp, a 1-year-old girl got burned and blistered when she spilled hot soup on her feet.

The caravan, which has set up tents close to Mexico’s El Chaparral port of entry into the U.S., has become a lightning rod, with supporters celebrating its progress toward the U.S. border and President Trump frequently citing it as justification for tough measures against illegal immigration — and the building of a massive border wall.

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On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence took a heavily secured tour of a construction site in the Imperial Valley for the border barrier.

Referring to members of the caravan, Pence said that migrants were “being exploited by open-border political activists and an agenda-driven media.”

Activists for Pueblo Sin Fronteras responded that families were fleeing their homelands in Central America because of grim and dangerous circumstances.

The caravans — which are considered safer than making the journey alone — are designed to raise awareness about the conditions that prompt people to flee and the dangers they face when they do.

At a boisterous gathering at the border fence Sunday in Playas de Tijuana, hundreds of people, some waving Honduran flags, called out chants and waved bouquets of yellow flowers. Younger migrants climbed to the top of tall gates dividing the U.S. and Mexico, pumping their fists at crowds gathered on the American side. Others quietly clutched infants, wondering about their future.

At a rally in Michigan on Saturday, Trump referred to the caravan, telling a crowd:

“Are you watching that mess that’s going on right now with the caravan coming up? We have the worst laws anywhere in the world, we don’t have borders.”

TIJUANA, MEXICO MAY 1, 2018 -- Close to 200 Central American migrants seeking asylum at an encampme
Close to 200 Central American migrants seeking asylum at an encampment near the Chaparral port of entry in Tijuana, Mexico.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times )
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The caravan has been journeying through Mexico since leaving the southern border city of Tapachula on March 25 with the goal of reaching the Tijuana-San Diego border. Most immigrants are from Honduras and tell of gang violence and extortion back home.

The situation in Tijuana has led to some tension between the group of Central Americans and a group of Mexicans who have been camped out along the border and also want to seek asylum. But despite the friction, there has also been a sense of solidarity between the two groups, with food and blankets for children being shared.

On Tuesday, about 25 Mexican migrants were allowed to be processed by Customs and Border Protection, according to activists. Shortly after, the six Central American migrants — comprising two families — were allowed in, they said.

A steady group of 20 people seeking asylum have been allowed just outside of the Customs and Border Protection’s offices. Whenever anyone is allowed inside for processing, the same number of people is let into the area just outside the compound.

On Tuesday, many of the Central Americans expressed their determination to stay put.

Kenia Avila, a 35-year-old from Honduras with three small boys, said returning to her homeland would be too dangerous. She said she used to sell fish at a market back home until armed gang members threatened her. Avila said she initially planned to seek asylum in Mexico, but said that gang members know she’s in the country.

“We’re here to stay. We’re not going anywhere,” she said. “This is about our lives. It’s not a lie. If this were a lie we would’ve left already.”

esmeralda.bermudez@latimes.com

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Times staff writer Alene Tchekmedyian contributed to this report.


UPDATES:

8:20 p.m.: This article was updated with new information from caravan organizers.

6:50 p.m.: This article was updated with updated figures about caravan migrants allowed in for processing.

This story was originally published at 12:50 p.m.


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