Traffic halted at busy U.S.-Mexico border crossing after migrants attempt to breach fence

Some Central American migrants, mostly men, tried to breach the border crossing between Tijuana, Mexico, and California on Sunday, after pushing past a blockade of Mexican police standing guard near the international border crossing in a bid to pressure the U.S to hear their asylum claims.

Mexico's Milenio TV showed images of at least a few of the hundreds of migrants at the border as they tried to jump over the fence separating the two countries.

The migrants carried hand-painted American and Honduran flags and chanted: "We are not criminals! We are international workers!" The group mostly consisted of men, although some women pushed small children ahead in strollers.

U.S. Border Patrol helicopters flew overhead, while U.S. agents held vigil on foot beyond the wire fence in California. The Border Patrol office in San Diego said via Twitter that pedestrian crossings have been suspended at two border points of the San Ysidro port of entry.

U.S. agents shot tear gas at the migrants after some tried to breach the fence separating the U.S. and Mexico. 

"These attempts to illegally enter the U.S., and the response to them continue," U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement on Sunday. "Some attempted to illegally enter the U.S. through both the northbound and southbound vehicles lanes at the port of entry itself. Those persons were stopped and turned back to Mexico.

"To prepare for the possibility that additional groups would also break off from demonstrations for a possible attempt or attempts to rush illegally through the port of entry, CBP suspended operations at the port of entry."

'We can't have all these people'

More than 5,000 migrants have been camped in and around a sports complex in Tijuana after making their way through Mexico in recent weeks via caravan. Many hope to apply for asylum in the U.S., but agents at the San Ysidro entry point are processing fewer than 100 asylum petitions a day.

Some of the migrants who went forward Sunday called on each other to remain peaceful.

They appeared to easily pass through the Mexican police blockade without using violence.

Migrants cross a riverbed at the Mexico-U.S. border after getting past a line of police on Sunday. U.S. agents fired tear gas at migrants who tried to breach the border fence. (Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press)

A second line of Mexican police carrying plastic riot shields stood guard outside a Mexican customs and immigration plaza, where the migrants were headed.

That line of police installed tall steel panels behind them outside the Chaparral crossing on the Mexican side of the border, which completely blocked incoming traffic lanes to Mexico.

Irineo Mujica, who has accompanied the migrants for weeks as part of the aid group Pueblo Sin Fronteras, said the aim of Sunday's march toward the U.S. border was to make the migrants' plight more visible to the governments of Mexico and the U.S.

"We can't have all these people here," Mujica told The Associated Press.

Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastlum on Friday declared a humanitarian crisis in his border city of 1.6 million, which he says is struggling to accommodate the crush of migrants. 

U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter again Sunday to express his displeasure with the caravans in Mexico.

"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)," he wrote.

U.S. officials have said for months that they were working with Mexico to find solutions for what they have called a border crisis.

Mexico's incoming government has denied a report that it plans to allow asylum seekers to wait in the country while their claims move through U.S. immigration courts.

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