The Justice Department on Monday charged eleven members of a much-publicized immigrant “caravan” from Central America with illegally entering the U.S.
Over 100 immigrants arrived at the San Ysidro border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico Sunday night after a 2,000-mile journey across Mexico, many having fled violence in their home countries.
At least eight women and children seeking asylum are being processed by U.S. immigration officials, and another 140 immigrants are still waiting in Mexico to turn themselves in at the border crossing, organizers of the caravan said. Two Salvadorans, six Hondurans, two Guatemalans, and a Mexican have been charged with misdemeanors and are in custody, according to federal court filings. One was deported before and faces a felony charge as well.
The caravan, an annual Holy Week project that is meant to draw attention to the plights of some migrants, picked up more travelers than usual this year, growing to 1,500 at one point. The size of the group caught the attention of President Trump, who warned against allowing such a large group into the U.S.
“Catch and release is ridiculous. If they touch our property, if they touch our country, essentially you catch them and you release them into our country. That’s not acceptable to anybody, so we need a change in the law,” Trump said on Monday, referring to a policy that lets undocumented immigrants go free until their cases are resolved.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month announced a “zero tolerance” policy for those seeking to illegally enter the country.
“The United States will not stand by as our immigration laws are ignored and our nation’s safety is jeopardized,” Sessions said in a statement announcing the charges.
One of the organizers of the caravan from the group Pueblo Sin Fronteras declared that they planned to stay there until “every last one is admitted into the United States.”
Most migrants slept under the stars on the Mexican side of the border, hoping to be admitted across by U.S. border officials.
“I can’t blame anybody for wanting to be a part of the greatest country on Earth, but there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it,” said Acting ICE director Tom Homan on Tuesday. “You can’t want to be a part of the greatest country on Earth and not respect its laws.”