The Mexican border was closed Sunday at the San Ysidro Port of Entry after a group of migrants in Tijuana stormed the area, prompting the U.S. Border Patrol to fire what appeared to be tear gas at the group.
The incident marks a serious escalation in the tensions that have roiled Tijuana in recent weeks as thousands of migrants from Central America have amassed there with hopes for entering the United States.
President Trump has vowed to seal off the Mexican border in recent days and pushed to keep any migrants in Mexico as they await the immigration process.
As Mexican authorities tried to move the migrants away from the border, gridlock was occurring in what is one of the world’s busiest international crossings.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection closed northbound and southbound access, as well as pedestrian access, to the port of entry around 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
Extra Border Patrol personnel were deployed to the San Ysidro port on Sunday “in preparation for multiple planned demonstrations on both side of the border,” according to a statement from U.S. Customs and Border Protection Sunday afternoon.
“As the demonstrations on the Mexican side reached the border area, some members of the demonstration split off to head towards multiple locations along the border,” the statement read. “Some attempted to illegally enter the U.S. through both the northbound and southbound vehicles lanes at the port of entry itself. Those persons were stopped and turned back to Mexico.”
The port was closed “to prepare for the possibility that additional groups would also break off from demonstrations for a possible attempt or attempts to rush illegally through the port of entry,” according to the statement.
The move came as hundreds of Central American migrants who have been gathering in Tijuana pushed past a blockade of Mexican police standing guard and rushed toward the border.
The migrants carried hand-painted American and Honduran flags and chanted: “We are not criminals! We are international workers!”
A small clash occurred late in the morning when migrants tried to run around Mexican federal police, leaving one officer with a cut on his lip.
A helicopter circled overhead when a small group of men and teenage boys ran past Mexican police to a small hole in the border fence.
U.S. authorities appeared to deploy tear gas and a shot bang, which makes a loud noise but does not fire a projectile, at a group of people who were trying to get through a section of the border fence.
Some at the fence could be seen throwing rocks.
At one point before noon, Border Patrol authorities fired what appeared to be a shot bang and launched tear gas at a group of people trying to make their way through a fence.
Around 1:30 p.m., a large Homeland Security bus was ushered past the border barricade.
Customs and Border Protection had deployed additional personnel to the border due to multiple planned protests on both sides. The personnel included Customs and Border Protection officers, U.S. Border Patrol agents and Air and Marine agents recently sent to the region.
San Diego police also readied on-duty officers Sunday afternoon to respond to the border division if needed.
None of the migrants managed to cross the border into the U.S.
More than 4,700 Central Americans have been living crammed together in a Tiijuana sports complex.
State authorities say by the time it is over, as many as 9,000 Central Americans will have arrived in Tijuana with the hope of crossing to the United States.
On Sunday morning, before the border closed, President Trump used his presidential Twitter account to blame Democrats for allowing border crossings, and suggested that Mexico and “originating countries” should prevent caravans from reaching the border, or forming at all. Such caravans, he wrote, are “a way they get certain people out of their country and dump in U.S. No longer.”
Less than 24 hours earlier, Trump had reiterated threats on Twitter to close the southern border — threats that have alarmed many in Mexico, since cross-border trade is a mainstay of the Mexican economy.
In his tweet, Trump also said migrants would not be allowed into the United States “until their claims are individually approved in court.”