Central American ‘Caravan’ Migrants Seek Asylum at U.S.-Mexico Border

TIJUANA, Mexico—As almost 200 Central American migrants approached the U.S. border crossing here Sunday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the crossing was full before the caravan of migrants began seeking asylum.

The migrants are part of a caravan that has drawn the attention, and ire, of President Donald Trump. The president has said the group’s plan to ask for asylum is evidence that there is a crisis at the U.S. border with Mexico.

Sunday, just before 10 a.m., migrants from the caravan made their way by bus to Friendship Park at the border with the U.S. They were greeted by supporters standing on the beach on the other side of a 20-foot fence that marks the border where it meets the Pacific Ocean.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement Sunday evening, “Depending upon port circumstances at the time of arrival, those individuals may need to wait in Mexico as CBP officers work to process those already within our facilities.”

Their march to the border brings to the end a nearly monthlong trip from Central America and across Mexico.

The migrants arrived by bus in various groups starting last week and took up residence in shelters around Tijuana, not far from the border. At the Movimiento Juventud 2000 shelter, more than 130 Central Americans stayed in tents inside the tin-roofed building within view of the border. Ana Suaso, a Honduran woman who was traveling with three of her children, said Thursday she was ready to make the final push to the U.S.

“I’m ready to go,” she said, standing outside the shelter.

It is possible that the parents, if detained, may be separated from their children. The government is prohibited from jailing children, and the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t have a blanket policy about separating asylum seekers from their children, though officials have said a standard policy to separate families is being considered. The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the government to stop the practice of separating some parents and children who are seeking asylum at the border.

Mr. Trump has urged Mexico to stop the caravan and has deployed the National Guard to the border to help the U.S. Customs and Border Protection secure the area. He has repeatedly tweeted about the group, at times praising Mexican authorities after the group seemed to slow and later pledging to stop them from crossing the border.

In a fundraising email sent to supporters recently, Mr. Trump said he has directed the Department of Homeland Security to “STOP the caravan of illegal immigrants trying to cross our WIDE-OPEN BORDER” and calling again for an “impenetrable WALL.”

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has said her agency would “enforce the immigration laws” and prosecute people who cross the border illegally. She also said her agency would make sure the “necessary resources” were in place to handle the influx of asylum seekers.

DHS officials didn’t respond to a request for comment Friday about what resources were being sent to the border.

Immigration and civil-rights advocates have pledged to make sure those in the caravan get their chance to ask for asylum at the port. But it was unclear if everyone in the group would be allowed to apply for asylum on Sunday, as planned.

Brian Griffey, a regional researcher and adviser with Amnesty International, said Customs and Border Protection officials have in the past limited the number of asylum seekers agents processed on any given day when large groups show up. “It’s a little bit of a wait-and-see game,” said Mr. Griffey, who along with other rights advocates planned to be at the border on Sunday.

Write to Alicia A. Caldwell at Alicia.Caldwell@wsj.com

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