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U.S. Slashes Migrant Border Crossings (#GotBitcoin?)

The U.S. has slashed the number of migrants being allowed to cross the U.S.-Mexican border to legally apply for asylum, as caravans totaling some 10,000 migrants trudge north through Mexico.

The Trump administration follows through with the president’s threats to ‘harden’ the border, leaving a growing number of anxious migrants at the southern frontier.

Here at the border station across from Yuma, Ariz., 30 families or more normally cross each day, say Mexican immigration officials. But in the last two weeks the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has let in one family a day at most, say migrants and their advocates.

“It really seems like they are trying to discourage people from crossing to seek asylum legally, or trying to get them to go to other border crossings,” said Iveth López, an immigration counselor with Chicanos Por La Causa in Somerton, Ariz. “It’s been bad for a couple of weeks.”

Reports of slowdowns at legal border crossings like this one are becoming commonplace across the 2,000-mile frontier from Texas to California. Immigration lawyers have complained of asylum seekers being blocked in recent days from entering the U.S. from the Mexican border cities of Matamoros, Reynosa and Ciudad Juárez as well.

Last week, U.S. authorities announced they would “harden” the border at Tijuana, closing four lanes of traffic at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa crossings. As some 1,000 migrants arrived in Tijuana one recent day, border-patrol contractors unwound hundreds of yards of razor wire at the beachside border fence, as armed guards looked on.

On Monday morning, thousands of drivers who normally commute each day from Mexico through San Ysidro—the busiest entry point between Tijuana and San Diego—to work on the U.S. side arrived to find the border closed for about three hours during the morning rush.

The closure was in response to intelligence reports, including from the Mexican government, that groups of migrants from the caravan planned to rush the border through the automotive lanes, said a senior Department of Homeland Security official. That led to the closure of eight more lanes at the busy border crossing.

The moves to prevent migrants from entering the U.S. follow a proclamation signed by President Trump blocking access to asylum seekers who illegally cross the border between checkpoints. “Illegal Immigrants trying to come into the U.S.A., often proudly flying the flag of their nation as they ask for U.S. Asylum, will be detained or turned away,” he tweeted on Sunday.

Jennifer Harbury, a civil rights lawyer in Texas, said the U.S administration is making it impossible for migrants apply for asylum. “What Trump is saying is, if you’re a migrant fleeing violence and poverty in Central America, you cannot cross the river or the desert, or you will be sent home to die, and you can’t cross legally and throw yourself at the mercy of immigration officials either,” she said.

U.S. Customs declined to comment on the volumes of migrants being allowed to seek asylum or on the situation at any U.S.-Mexico border crossings. But the agency said the process can be delayed by a host of factors, including capacity at U.S. border stations, the number of translators on hand and the medical needs of asylum seekers.

The senior DHS official said the administration is continuing to discuss a variety of options to manage the caravan with officials in Mexico, Central America and the United Nations High Commission on Refugees.

The DHS official also said at least 500 criminals were traveling in the caravan. When asked to provide details of how the administration identified criminals, the official declined, saying the U.S. had to protect their sources.

The main victims of the slowdown appear to be Mexicans, many of whom have been sleeping for months in tents and migrant shelters in border cities run by the Catholic Church and other organizations, waiting for their names to be called to petition for asylum. As of Friday, there were more than 2,500 names on the list in Tijuana, with thousands of Central Americans in caravans set to arrive in coming days.

“I’m worried that they won’t let anyone in because of the caravan,” said Gabi Ávalos, a lime-picker from Apatzingán, a city in the violence-plagued Mexican state of Michoacán.

Ms. Ávalos fled with her 14-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter after her father, who ran a roadside food stall, was killed by members of the La Familia Michoacana gang for refusing to make extortion payments, she said. She hopes to seek asylum and join her cousin, who she said works as a housekeeper in southern California.

Among the families, many of them with small children, camped outside the San Luis border crossing, sat Daniel Rendón, age 40, and his wife, Eva Angelina García, 33, who is nine months pregnant with their child.

In August, Ms. García said she began receiving threats from a kidnapping gang in her Mexican city of Cuernavaca. When the demands escalated, she called her husband, a U.S. citizen who cleans rooms at a casino in Laughlin, Nev., who told her to meet him at the border. Mr. Rendón took a Greyhound bus to Yuma and crossed to San Luis, where the couple has been waiting for a week without shelter to be allowed to cross into the U.S. and seek asylum for Ms. Garcia.

“I’m worried about being let in, I’m worried about the baby, I’m worried about everything,” Mr. Rendón said. “Eventually I think she’ll get her papers, but in the meantime, we don’t know anyone here in San Luis.”

At the Benito Juárez sports complex in Tijuana, city officials set up a temporary migrant shelter that had reached its capacity of 1,500 by Thursday night. Tension grew as busloads of caravan members showed up.

Local residents have marched in protest of the arriving migrants. A tense standoff on the beach nearly turned violent. Tijuana’s mayor, Juan Manuel Gastelum, said the city was unprepared for the “avalanche” of migrants and predicted they could be in the city for as long as six months.

“No city is prepared to take 3,000, 5,000, 6,000 migrants in one fell swoop,” said Genaro López Moreno, a Tijuana city councilman who was helping coordinate the arrival and registration of migrants at the shelter.

Father Pat Murphy, a Catholic priest who runs a migrant shelter in Tijuana, said he worries that Central Americans arriving to the U.S. border in the caravans could cause friction with the migrants who have been waiting in the Mexican city for months to seek asylum.

“If all of the sudden, 3,000 people just show up and expect to jump ahead of these migrants who have been waiting in line patiently, it could get really hairy. It could be cause for violence,” he said.

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