TIJUANA, Mexico — Hundreds of migrants approaching the U.S. border from Mexico were enveloped with tear gas Sunday after several tried to make it past fencing and wire separating the two countries, and the Mexican Interior Ministry said it would immediately deport Central American migrants who tried to “violently” breach the border with the U.S. just south of California and that it would reinforce the border.
Earlier in the morning, a group of Central Americans staged a peaceful march to appeal for the U.S. to speed up the asylum claims process, but their demonstration devolved as they neared the crossing with the U.S. and some saw an opportunity to breach the border.
U.S. agents shot several rounds of gas, according to an Associated Press reporter on the scene, after migrants attempted to penetrate several points along the border. Migrants sought to squeeze through gaps in wire, climb over fences and peel back metal sheeting to enter.
Children screamed and coughed in the mayhem of the tear gas. Fumes were carried by the wind toward people who were hundreds of feet away, not trying to enter the U.S.
Yards away on the U.S. side, shoppers streamed in and out of an outlet mall.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopters flew
overhead, pedestrian cross-ings have been suspended at the San Ysidro port of entry and all northbound and southbound traffic was halted.
Earlier Sunday, the several hundred migrants pushed past a blockade of Mexican police near the international border crossing. They appeared to easily pass through without violence, and some called on each other to remain peaceful.
They carried hand-painted American and Honduran flags while chanting: “We are not criminals! We are international workers!”
Migrants were asked by police to turn back toward Mexico.