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World

Many Migrants Who Rushed U.S. Border Are Sent Back To Their Country

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Mexico says 98 Central American migrants are being deported after they tried to rush the U.S. border between Tijuana and San Diego on Sunday. That is the day U.S. agents fired tear gas at protesters on the Mexican side of the border after a demonstration there veered into chaos. U.S. border officials justified the use of force saying some of the protesters were throwing rocks. Whatever happened, there are images from the scene showing women and children fleeing clouds of tear gas. Yesterday, President Trump denied that tear gas was used on children. He threatened again to close the border with Mexico, quote, "permanently if need be." At the moment, thousands of migrants remain at that border wondering what their options are. And reporter James Frederick is in Tijuana. He has been covering this story and joins us. Good morning, James.

JAMES FREDERICK, BYLINE: Morning, David.

GREENE: Let's start with the migrants who did march toward the U.S. border involved in that clash. Where exactly are they now? The Mexican government is saying they're sending them home.

FREDERICK: Well, most of them are still here. So we don't have exact numbers for all of this. But, you know, as far as the total number of people who marched, it was, you know, just a portion of the almost 6,000 people from the migrant caravans who are here in Tijuana. And then of the, you know, roughly 1,000 people that were in the march, it wasn't all of them that rushed up to the border fence where we saw tear gas deployed. And so the people that Mexican officials say were being violent or aggressive, those are the ones they say were detained and have already been deported back to their home countries. But most of the people - you know, especially, you know, families, children that we saw there - are back in this city-run shelter in Tijuana.

GREENE: Well, I mean, there's still a lot of people it sounds like. What was it like yesterday? I mean, have things been more calm than they were over the weekend?

FREDERICK: Well, on Monday, things were quite calm in Tijuana and around the migrant shelter. But one thing was very different - is there were dozens of Mexican police officers that basically formed a perimeter around the migrant shelter. So migrants can still come in and out freely. But it's clear that Mexican authorities are trying to position themselves in a way that another large march can't be organized and that we don't see a repeat of the incident we saw on Sunday.

GREENE: And, James, here's the big question - what options are left for these migrants? Many of them want to apply for asylum in the United States. President Trump has said that, as those requests are processed, he doesn't want them inside the United States. What are their plans here?

FREDERICK: Well, the main sentiment from people that I spoke to is just, you know, confusion and desperation and doubt about what comes next. And so there are people who are requesting asylum. And they are intent on putting their names on this list here in Tijuana - that's basically a first come, first served. But that could be months of them waiting here. The other thing we know is that Mexican and U.S. officials have been discussing a plan called Remain in Mexico, which would make asylum-seekers who try to request asylum at the southern U.S. border to wait that entire process out in Mexico. That's months or even years. So you can imagine how frustrating that would be for someone to hear that they would wait in Mexico indefinitely for that asylum request. You know, the other interesting thing that I heard a lot is that the state government here in Baja California has been offering migrants the opportunity to get a one-year visa and to get a job here. And so a lot of people are doing that thinking, you know, maybe I'll stay here in Tijuana for a while and figure things out and then see what shakes out in terms of immigration policy.

GREENE: Reporter James Frederick speaking to us from Tijuana, Mexico. James, we appreciate it. Thanks.

FREDERICK: Thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.