Ciudad Juarez, Mexico — Hundreds of people tried to storm the U.S.-Mexico border on Sunday, after a rumor that migrants would be allowed to cross into the United States. Around noon, a large crowd of mainly Venezuelans began to gather near the entrance of a bridge connecting Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez to El Paso, Texas in the southern United States.
Frustrated by delays and difficulties in applying for asylum in the United States after journeys thousands of miles long through Central America and Mexico, some told AFP they thought they would be allowed entry because of a supposed “day of the migrant” celebration.
Images on social media showed a group that included many women and children running towards the border, shouting “to the USA.”
They quickly encountered barbed wire, orange barricades and police with shields.
US border guards “of course” moved to close the bridge, said Enrique Valenzuela, a civil society worker who helps migrants in Juarez.
Jackson Solis, a 23-year-old Venezuelan, was among those who came to the bridge on Sunday to see if the rumor was true.
“We all ran and they put a fence with barbed wire around us. They threw tear gas at us,” he said.
Solis told AFP he had been waiting six months to try to schedule an appointment to apply for asylum in the United States, where he wants to work. Appointments must now be booked through a Customs and Border Protection mobile app that was introduced this year as asylum seekers were required to apply in advance rather than upon arrival.
The Biden administration has been hoping to stem the record tide of migrants and asylum seekers undertaking often dangerous journeys organized by human smugglers to get to the United States.
In January, the White House proposed expanding a controversial rule to allow border guards to turn away more would-be migrants if they arrive by land.
“Do not just show up at the border,” President Joe Biden said in a speech at the time.
Mr. Biden took office vowing to give refuge to asylum seekers and end harsh detention policies for illegal border crossers, but since he commissioned new asylum eligibility rules in a February 2021 executive order, three people with direct knowledge of the debates told CBS News’ Camilo Montoya-Galvez there have been disagreements within the administration over how generous the regulations should be.
Some top administration officials have voiced concern about issuing rules that could make additional migrants eligible for asylum and make it more difficult to deport them while the administration is focused on reducing unlawful border crossings, the sources told CBS News.
About 200,000 people try to cross the border from Mexico to the United States each month, but the number of migrants apprehended by U.S. border patrol agents after illegally crossing into the U.S. dropped by roughly 40% in January — when the Biden administration announced its revamped strategy to discourage unlawful crossings, according to preliminary government data obtained by CBS News last month.
Border Patrol agents recorded approximately 130,000 apprehensions of migrants who entered the U.S. between official ports of entry along the border with Mexico in January, compared to the near-record 221,000 apprehensions in December, the internal preliminary figures show. The number of Border Patrol apprehensions in November and October totaled 207,396 and 204,874, respectively.
Most are from Central and South America, and they typically cite poverty and violence in their home nations in requesting asylum.