By Manuel Ocaño
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) informed that a group of 376 migrants dug under the border fence near Yuma, Ariz., and turned themselves in to request asylum. CBP confirmed that this is the largest group to enter the U.S. in this fashion to voluntarily turn themselves in to officers in order to request asylum.
The unusually large incursion through a hole dug under the border fence, as well as the discovery of three border tunnels in a single month, happened during the time that President Trump has kept the government shut down until he gets funding for the Wall he promised during his campaign.
After the mass crossing, Yuma Border Patrol said that although the number of migrant crossings in the Yuma Sector has gone up, it is usually groups of no more than 20 to 30 people, among them children.
“In my 30 years with Border Patrol, I had never been part of an arrest of a group as large as this one,” said Yuma Sector Chief Patrol Agent Anthony Porvaznik.
He explained that migrant apprehensions, including those who cross to turn themselves in for asylum, has spiked in the Yuma Sector in the past year. “87 percent of the apprehensions here are family units and unaccompanied alien children”, he added.
CBP stated that 179 of the 376 people in the group were children, including 30 unaccompanied minors (children under 18 traveling without an adult or a relative).
Porvaznik said that although this was an unusually large group, his agency still must comply with level of service.
The asylum seekers were segregated into holding cells according to family composition: fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, mothers and their children, and unaccompanied minors.
CBP said they would be providing basic services and care, such as medical care, food, a place to sleep, blankets, and personal hygiene services.
The mass crossing into Yuma happened Monday morning through a hole two-and-a-half feet across. However, on Wednesday, another group of 247 Central American migrants also turned themselves in to officers in New Mexico to request asylum.
Both incidents occurred while a new caravan, expected to have at least 3,000 people, is now traveling through southern Mexico toward the border.
Several people in the caravan have told reporters that their intention is to get to Tijuana, because they feel this is where they would be safest, and then petition for asylum at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.