Hundreds of Central Americans arrived at the United States’s southern border, defying visiting US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, as the rest of a migrant caravan dramatically accelerated its pace to join them.
Large groups of migrants gathered on the beach in the northern city of Tijuana at the border fence that separates Mexico from California, climbing on top of it and even jumping down to the other side as US border patrol agents looked on — before quickly scrambling back to the Mexican side. “We’re not criminals!” some of them shouted, in a pointed message to US President Donald Trump, who has deployed some 5,900 troops to the border as the caravan approaches.
Another 4,000 migrants the main caravan are expected to reach the border in a matter of days, fleeing poverty and violence in their home countries. At least nine migrants from the caravan crossed decisively into the US side, and were promptly arrested by border patrol officers, an AFP correspondent said.
Mattis said the military was helping border agents with a range of jobs, from ferrying them around by helicopter to putting up razor-wire fencing along the border. There are now nearly 800 migrants from the original caravan in Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, California, after a new group of 350 arrived .
Trump turned the caravan into a hot-button issue ahead of last week’s US midterm elections, claiming without providing evidence it included “hardened criminals” and “unknown Middle Easterners” who were about to “assault” the United States.