About 50 people from a Central American migrant caravan including women, children and transgender individuals tried to seek US asylum on Sunday but were not allowed to cross the Mexico border because officials said the facility was full.
Wearing white arm-bands to distinguish themselves from others crossing at the San Ysidro checkpoint near San Diego, some of the asylum seekers waved good-bye to family members who made a difficult decision to stay behind in Mexico.
About 20 people in the group were able to reach the final fence at the busy crossing, where they were watched by armed US border guards who did not immediately open the gate, reports Reuters.
“We have reached capacity at the San Ysidro port of entry,” said Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan in a statement on Sunday, adding that the immigrants “may need to wait in Mexico.”
It was not immediately clear whether the group would be turned back or allowed in later. By sunset the tired migrants had decided to hunker down there, apparently with no bedding beyond the scant possessions they had with them.
“We’ve been waiting so long that it doesn’t really matter whether it’s today, tomorrow or when they let us in,” said Irineo Mujica, director of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, an advocacy group that organised the caravan since its starting point in southern Mexico a month ago.
At one point in early April the caravan gathered 1,500 immigrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
It has drawn the wrath of President Donald Trump, who ordered immigration officials to be zealous in enforcing rules to stop unlawful entry by caravan members.
More migrants from the caravan, which numbered around 400 people by the time it reached Tijuana, also planned to seek asylum.
About 100 set up an open air camp in a small square on the Mexican side by the San Ysidro pedestrian bridge, saying they would stay there until they were allowed through.
With no shelter, they laid out towels and blankets on the cold concrete.