Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said DHS continues to monitor the remnants of the “caravan” of migrants headed to the southern border with the intent of seeking asylum.
NBC News reported that hundreds of Central American migrants who made the publicized annual journey up through Mexico began arriving in Tijuana this week. Tents were set up in the border city to house those planning to attempt surrender at the U.S. Port of Entry.
“A sovereign nation that cannot – or worse, chooses not – to defend its borders will soon cease to be a sovereign nation. The Trump administration is committed to enforcing our immigration laws – whether persons are part of this ‘caravan’ or not,” Nielsen said Monday. “If members of the ‘caravan’ enter the country illegally, they will be referred for prosecution for illegal entry in accordance with existing law. For those seeking asylum, all individuals may be detained while their claims are adjudicated efficiently and expeditiously, and those found not to have a claim will be promptly removed from the United States.”
“DHS, in partnership with DOJ, is taking a number of steps to ensure that all cases and claims are adjudicated promptly – including sending additional USCIS asylum officers, ICE attorneys, DOJ Immigration Judges, and DOJ prosecutors to the Southern border. Again, if you enter the United States illegally, let me be clear: you have broken the law. And we will enforce the law through prosecution of illegal border crossers.”
Nielsen added that DHS “encourages persons with asylum or other similar claims to seek protections in the first safe country they enter, including Mexico.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a statement chiding the mostly Honduran migrants for having “ignored the willingness of the Mexican government to allow them to stay in Mexico.”
“Let today’s message be clear: our nation has the most generous immigration system in the world, but this is a deliberate attempt to undermine our laws and overwhelm our system. There is no right to demand entry without justification,” Sessions said. “Smugglers and traffickers and those who lie or commit fraud will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Central American migrants who waited at the Port of Entry on Monday said they were told that immigration officials were only processing that day asylum-seekers who are Mexican citizens.