PHOTOS: Migrants try to breach border at Tijuana — U.S. agents fire tear gas

A migrant family from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the U.S., runs from tear gas released by U.S. border patrol agents near the fence between Mexico and the U.S. in Tijuana, Mexico, on Sunday. (Photo: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)
A migrant family from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the U.S., runs from tear gas released by U.S. border patrol agents near the fence between Mexico and the U.S. in Tijuana, Mexico, on Sunday. (Photo: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — Mexico pledged to shore up security near its border with the U.S. and local authorities said that 39 migrants were arrested after a peaceful march devolved into chaos when U.S. agents fired tear gas into Mexico to stop some migrants who tried to breach the border.

Mexico’s Interior Ministry said Sunday it would immediately deport those who tried to “violently” enter the U.S. from Tijuana. Meanwhile, Tijuana’s municipal government said that more than three dozen migrants were arrested for disturbing the peace and other charges stemming from the march and what followed.

The vast majority of the more than 5,000 Central American migrants camped out for more than a week at a sports complex in Tijuana returned to their makeshift shelter to line up for food and recuperate from an unsettling afternoon.

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the U.S., return to Mexico after being hit by tear gas by U.S. Customs and Border Protection after attempting to illegally cross the border wall and enter the U.S. from Tijuana, Mexico, on Sunday. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)
Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the U.S., return to Mexico after being hit by tear gas by U.S. Customs and Border Protection after attempting to illegally cross the border wall and enter the U.S. from Tijuana, Mexico, on Sunday. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Lurbin Sarmiento, 26, of Copan, Honduras, walked back to the sports complex with her 4-year-old daughter, shaken by what had unfolded a short time earlier at the Tijuana River and U.S. border.

She had been at the bottom of the river, a concrete riverbed conveying a trickle of water, near the border with her daughter when U.S. agents fired tear gas.

“We ran, but the smoke always reached us and my daughter was choking,” Sarmiento said.

She said she never would have gotten that close with her daughter if she thought there would be gas.

The gas reached hundreds of migrants protesting near the border after some of them attempted to get through the fencing and wire separating the two countries. American authorities shut down the nation’s busiest border crossing at San Ysidro for several hours at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend.

Mexican police run as they try to keep migrants from getting past the Chaparral border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, on Sunday near San Ysidro, Calif. (Photo: Ramon Espinosa/AP)
Mexican police run as they try to keep migrants from getting past the Chaparral border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, on Sunday near San Ysidro, Calif. (Photo: Ramon Espinosa/AP)

The situation devolved after the group began a peaceful march to appeal for the U.S. to speed processing of asylum claims for Central American migrants marooned in Tijuana.

Mexican police had kept them from walking over a bridge leading to the Mexican port of entry, but the migrants pushed past officers to walk across the Tijuana River below the bridge. More police carrying plastic riot shields were on the other side, but migrants walked along the river to an area where only an earthen levee and concertina wire separated them from U.S. Border Patrol agents.

Some saw an opportunity to breach the crossing.

An Associated Press reporter saw U.S. agents shoot several rounds of tear gas after some migrants attempted to penetrate several points along the border. Mexico’s Milenio TV showed images of migrants climbing over fences and peeling back metal sheeting to enter.

A photojournalist is surrounded in a cloud of tear gas released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection after some migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America, attempted to illegally cross the border into the U.S. from Tijuana, Mexico, on Sunday. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)
A photojournalist is surrounded in a cloud of tear gas released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection after some migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America, attempted to illegally cross the border into the U.S. from Tijuana, Mexico, on Sunday. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Honduran Ana Zuniga, 23, also said she saw migrants opening a small hole in concertina wire at a gap on the Mexican side of a levee, at which point U.S. agents fired tear gas at them.

Children screamed and coughed. Fumes were carried by the wind toward people who were hundreds of feet away.

“We ran, but when you run, the gas asphyxiates you more,” Zuniga told the AP while cradling her 3-year-old daughter, Valery, in her arms.

As the chaos unfolded, shoppers just yards away on the U.S. side streamed in and out of an outlet mall, which eventually closed.

Migrants clash with Mexican police at the Mexico-U.S. border after getting past another line of Mexican police at the Chaparral crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, as they try to reach the U.S. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)
Migrants clash with Mexican police at the Mexico-U.S. border after getting past another line of Mexican police at the Chaparral crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, as they try to reach the U.S. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Throughout the day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopters flew overhead, while U.S. agents on foot watched beyond the wire fence in California. The Border Patrol office in San Diego said via Twitter that pedestrian crossings were suspended at the San Ysidro port of entry at the East and West facilities. All northbound and southbound traffic was halted for several hours. Every day, more than 100,000 people enter the U.S. there.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement that U.S. authorities will continue to have a “robust” presence along the Southwest border and will prosecute anyone who damages federal property or violates U.S. sovereignty.

“DHS will not tolerate this type of lawlessness and will not hesitate to shut down ports of entry for security and public safety reasons,” she said.

A migrant throws a glass bottle at U.S border patrol over the border fence between Mexico and the U.S. in Tijuana, Mexico, on Sunday. (Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters)
A migrant throws a glass bottle at U.S border patrol over the border fence between Mexico and the U.S. in Tijuana, Mexico, on Sunday. (Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters)

More than 5,000 migrants have been camped in and around a sports complex in Tijuana after making their way through Mexico in recent weeks via caravan. Many hope to apply for asylum in the U.S., but agents at the San Ysidro entry point are processing fewer than 100 asylum petitions a day.

Irineo Mujica, who has accompanied the migrants for weeks as part of the aid group Pueblo Sin Fronteras, said the aim of Sunday’s march toward the U.S. border was to make the migrants’ plight more visible to the governments of Mexico and the U.S.

“We can’t have all these people here,” Mujica said.

Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum on Friday declared a humanitarian crisis in his border city of 1.6 million, which he says is struggling to accommodate the crush of migrants.

Migrants run from tear gas released by U.S border patrol near the border fence between Mexico and the U.S. in Tijuana, Mexico, on Sunday. (Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters)
Migrants run from tear gas released by U.S border patrol near the border fence between Mexico and the U.S. in Tijuana, Mexico, on Sunday. (Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters)

President Trump took to Twitter on Monday to express his displeasure with the caravans in Mexico and to make another pitch for his promised border wall.

“Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries,” Trump tweeted. “Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it anyway you want, but they are NOT coming into the U.S.A. We will close the Border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the WALL!”

Trump has repeatedly suggested without evidence that the migrant caravans are full of hardened criminals, but they are mostly poor people with few belongings who are fleeing gang violence. During his presidential campaign, he promised he’d have Mexico pay for the wall.

Migrants run from tear gas released by U.S border patrol, near the border fence between Mexico and the United States in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday. (Photos: Hannah McKay/Reuters)
Migrants run from tear gas released by U.S border patrol, near the border fence between Mexico and the United States in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday. (Photos: Hannah McKay/Reuters)

Mexico’s Interior Ministry said Sunday the country has sent 11,000 Central Americans back to their countries of origin since Oct. 19, when the first caravan entered the country. It said that 1,906 of those who have returned were members of the recent caravans.

Mexico is on track to send a total of around 100,000 Central Americans back home by the end of this year.

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Associated Press writer Amy Guthrie contributed to this story from Mexico City.

More photos from the Tijuana border

A migrant reacts from tear gas thrown by the U.S. border patrol near the fence between Mexico and the United States in Tijuana, Mexico, November 25, 2018. (Photo: Jorge Duenes/Reuters)
A migrant reacts from tear gas thrown by the U.S. border patrol near the fence between Mexico and the United States in Tijuana, Mexico, November 25, 2018. (Photo: Jorge Duenes/Reuters)
Mexico’s Federal Police try to grab migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America, as they attempt to cross the border into the United States from Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. (Photo: Adrees Latif /Reuters)
Mexico’s Federal Police try to grab migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America, as they attempt to cross the border into the United States from Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. (Photo: Adrees Latif /Reuters)
A migrant girl from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, cries after running away from tear gas thrown by the U.S. border control near the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)
A migrant girl from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, cries after running away from tear gas thrown by the U.S. border control near the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)
A Central American migrant is stopped by U.S. agents who order him to go back to the Mexican side of the border, after a group of migrants got past Mexican police at the Chaparral crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, at the border with San Ysidro, California. (Photo: Pedro Acosta/AP)
A Central American migrant is stopped by U.S. agents who order him to go back to the Mexican side of the border, after a group of migrants got past Mexican police at the Chaparral crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, at the border with San Ysidro, California. (Photo: Pedro Acosta/AP)
Migrants from Central America and journalists are hit by tear gas after hundreds tried to illegally cross the Mexico border into the United States in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)
Migrants from Central America and journalists are hit by tear gas after hundreds tried to illegally cross the Mexico border into the United States in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)
A migrant woman helps carry a handmade U.S. flag up the riverbank at the Mexico-U.S. border after getting past Mexican police at the Chaparral border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, as a group of migrants tries to reach the U.S. (Photo: Ramon Espinosa/AP)
A migrant woman helps carry a handmade U.S. flag up the riverbank at the Mexico-U.S. border after getting past Mexican police at the Chaparral border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, as a group of migrants tries to reach the U.S. (Photo: Ramon Espinosa/AP)
Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, run from tear gas released by U.S border patrol, near the border fence between Mexico and the United States in Tijuana, Mexico, November 25, 2018. (Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters)
Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, run from tear gas released by U.S border patrol, near the border fence between Mexico and the United States in Tijuana, Mexico, November 25, 2018. (Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters)
Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, take part in a protest march towards the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. (Photo: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters)
Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, take part in a protest march towards the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. (Photo: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters)
Migrants cover from tear gases launched by US brother patrol agents at the Mexico-U.S. border in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, as they try to reach the U.S. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)
Migrants cover from tear gases launched by US brother patrol agents at the Mexico-U.S. border in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, as they try to reach the U.S. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)
Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, return to Mexico after being hit by tear gas by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) after attempting to illegally cross the border wall into the United States in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)
Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, return to Mexico after being hit by tear gas by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) after attempting to illegally cross the border wall into the United States in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)
A Honduran migrant lies on the riverbank as Mexican police move away from tear gas fired by U.S. agents at the Mexico-U.S. border in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, as a group of migrants try to pressure their way into the U.S. (Photo: Ramon Espinosa/AP)
A Honduran migrant lies on the riverbank as Mexican police move away from tear gas fired by U.S. agents at the Mexico-U.S. border in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, as a group of migrants try to pressure their way into the U.S. (Photo: Ramon Espinosa/AP)
Mexico’s Federal Police try to detain migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America, as they attempt to cross the border into the United States from Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)
Mexico’s Federal Police try to detain migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America, as they attempt to cross the border into the United States from Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)
A group of migrants gather at the Chaparral border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, as they try to pressure their way into the U.S. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)
A group of migrants gather at the Chaparral border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, as they try to pressure their way into the U.S. (Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)
Rosa Villa, 30, and her five-month-old son Esteban from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, are pushed back from the border wall between the U.S and Mexico by Mexican police in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. (Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)
Rosa Villa, 30, and her five-month-old son Esteban from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, are pushed back from the border wall between the U.S and Mexico by Mexican police in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. (Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

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