By Manuel Ocaño
Most of the images circulating about the immigrant caravan in San Diego thus far have been the thousands of troops deployed, the concertina wire with its razor-sharp blades, and hundreds of border patrol officers in riot gear and powerful firearms; however, a different panorama seems to have escaped the news and social media: the fact that 4 out of every 10 members of the migrant caravan have already been allowed into San Diego county.
According to numbers provided by Border Patrol, through Dec. 13 (last Thursday) 3,182 Central American caravan members had turned themselves into Border Patrol officers in the field, away from ports of entry, requesting asylum.
So far, it is known that 1,469 Hondurans, 1,262 Guatemalans, 404 Salvadorans, and 47 Nicaraguans have made it to San Diego. These numbers do not include the people who jumped over the border fence to turn themselves in to federal officers and express their desire to request asylum, which is the first step in the petition process.
Given that the State of Baja California stated that 8,200 immigrants arrived as part of the caravan, the close to 3,200 immigrants who have crossed into San Diego would represent about 40 percent of the overall total.
They have not crossed in huge groups, as President Donald Trump warned when he ordered soldiers be deployed to protect against an imminent “invasion.” That said, more immigrants have crossed on certain days, such as Dec. 12, when according to Border Patrol 59 migrants crossed over the wall: 53 from Honduras, five from El Salvador, and one from Guatemala.
Out the remaining caravan members, at least 1,000 have asked the Mexican government for help to return to their home countries. Some have expressed that they were lied about or misunderstood what to expect when they made it to the U.S. border. Close to 100 other people have been deported from Mexico for breaking different laws, according to numbers from the Tijuana Police Department regarding foreigners turned over to Mexico’s Immigration Institute (INM, for its initials in Spanish).
Having over 3,000 immigrant caravan members already starting their asylum process is contrary to the Border Patrol warnings indicating that anyone who crossed illegally would be arrested and denied the possibility of asylum.
On Nov. 9, when the caravan was still on its way to the U.S.-Mexico border, Donald Trump’s Administration issued an order to deny asylum to anyone who crossed the border illegally, even if their intent was to turn themselves in to petition for asylum.
San Diego Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott alerted during a press conference that anyone who jumped the fence would be arrested and placed into deportation proceedings without an asylum interview. However, on Dec. 7, a federal court in San Francisco blocked the Trump Administration’s asylum ban.
Five days later, the immigrants started coming across gradually, now reaching over 3,000 people and counting.