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Report of migrant caravan members possibly trying to cross border illegally prompts temporary closure of some US port of entry lanes

Hundreds of protesters march through downtown Tijuana on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, demanding an end to the Central American immigrant caravans passing through Mexico from the border with Guatemala, and calling for the expulsion of migrants already in the country. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

After U.S. Customs and Border Protection received information about migrant caravan members gathering in Tijuana for a possible attempt to rush illegally through the San Ysidro Port of Entry, the agency temporarily suspended some operations there early Monday, officials said.

CBP officials temporarily suspended processing for all northbound vehicle traffic at the border crossing, as well as northbound pedestrian processing at the Pedestrian East facility, at about 3:15 a.m. Officials had received reports “of groups of persons from the caravan gathering in the city of Tijuana for a possible attempt or attempts to rush illegally through the port of entry instead of presenting themselves as required to a CBP officer,” the agency said in a statement.

Operations were suspended so that impediments could be placed at the port of entry “that would restrict access to a large group attempting to run through the border crossing.” The lanes were closed to install additional port hardening materials at the port of entry, to include jersey barriers and concertina wire.

After the response, the agency said, no activity materialized at the border crossing.

“CBP will not allow for the unlawful entry of persons into the United States, at or between our ports of entry,” said Pete Flores, director of field operations in San Diego. “Waiting until a large group of persons mass at the border to attempt an illegal crossing is too late for us; we need to be prepared prior to when they arrive at the border crossing.”

At approximately 6:25 a.m., CBP officers resumed processing northbound pedestrian traffic at the Pedestrian East facility, and resumed processing northbound vehicle traffic in lanes 6-11, 13-18 and 20-23. Vehicle lanes 1-5, 12, 19 and 24-26 remained closed. CBP officials recommend that persons traveling northbound to the U.S. anticipate possible increased wait times because of the lane closures.

Southbound lanes remained open. Travelers were still able to use the West Facility to enter the U.S.

The move comes as the U.S. military continues to patrol and secure the border amid escalating tensions over the arrival of thousands of Central American migrants in Tijuana.

President Trump sent thousands of U.S. troops to the border in preparation for the immigrants’ arrival in early November. The migrants have received a hostile welcome even from Tijuana residents, who have protested their arrival in the last several days.

Alejandro Tamayo, who lives in Tijuana and works in Los Angeles, said it typically takes him 30 minutes to cross the border. On Monday morning, he waited in line more than three hours.

Tamayo noticed several traffic barriers blocking multiple Sentri lanes, or Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection lanes, that are meant for quicker access to the border.

Mexican officials had also added tall, wall-like barriers that appeared to be made of metal to block a few general lanes. Tamayo said he hadn’t seen those before.

Tamayo said that aside from the additional barriers, all was business as usual at the border. There were, however, an unusual amount of Mexican officials patrolling the area, he said.

“I was surprised to see that,” he said. “You don’t normally see that many Mexican federal officials.”


© 2018 Los Angeles Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.