Customs and Border Protection officials will shut down several lanes of traffic from Mexico into San Diego beginning Tuesday morning for what the agency called the “potential safety and security risk” posed by a caravan of Central American migrants.
Beginning 8 a.m. Tuesday, the agency will shut down three northbound lanes at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, which has about 17 total lanes, and one lane at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, which has about a dozen lanes.
The closures will allow federal authorities “to install and pre-position port hardening infrastructure equipment in preparation for the migrant caravan,” the agency said in a statement.
Most of the roughly 5,000 migrants, the majority of whom are from Honduras, plan to turn themselves in at the San Ysidro Port of Entry and ask the U.S. government for asylum.
The move to shut down some border lanes comes less than a week since about 1,100 troops from Camp Pendleton and Texas were deployed as part of “Operation Secure Line” to support border security, mainly by stringing concertina wire along the tops of aging border fences and plugging vulnerabilities elsewhere to prevent illegal crossings.
“CBP has been and will continue to prepare for the potential arrival of thousands of people migrating in a caravan heading towards the border of the United States,” Pete Flores, director of San Diego field operations for Customs and Border Protection, said Monday in a statement.
Customs and Border Protection officials recommended that motorists crossing from Tijuana into San Diego “anticipate increased wait times because of the lanes closures.”
The closures are expected to last “until sometime after people in the caravan arrive to the border,” the agency said.
On Thursday, the group voted to proceed from Mexico City, where they’d been gathered several days, to Tijuana, opting for the longer but less dangerous route.
Authorities said three smaller caravans of Central Americans in different parts of southern Mexico are also moving north, but their ultimate destination remained unclear.
As of Monday evening, most members of the largest caravan remained more than 1,500 miles from Tijuana in the western city of Guadalajara, according to Mexican officials. But about nine buses carrying some 300 caravan members were reported Monday evening to be passing with police escort through Hermosillo, capital of the northern state of Sonora about 540 miles from Tijuana.
On Sunday, a contingent of about 80 caravan participants — members of the LGBT community — arrived in Tijuana, where they were put up at a house rented out for them by supporters in a well-to-do neighborhood near the U.S. border. They had peeled off from the main caravan after being offered bus transportation and accommodations.
Riggins writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.