Here's what happened to the migrant caravan that arrived in Tijuana last year
Several busloads of mostly Central American migrants traveling in a caravan arrived to Tijuana, Mexico. USA TODAY
TIJUANA, Mexico — The familiar ritual unfolds each morning like clockwork now, next to the giant "Mexico" in block letters that greets visitors and migrants to the Chaparral pedestrian crossing into San Diego.
A woman standing under a temporary shade looked at a large book containing a list of migrants waiting to claim asylum in the United States.
She raised a megaphone and yelled, "1933."
It was the last number of the day, a day during which U.S. immigration officials would only process 30 individuals. Thousands more were waiting their turn.
Omar Rivera Martinez, a migrant from El Salvador, looked on. He and his family were number 1935. They'd have to wait until their number was called on the following day, but his spirits were high.
"I'm so happy that they're going to go to the other side," he said,referring to his family. "I hope God looks after them because I won't be with them."
Rivera Martinez left El Salvador with his wife and three kids in October. They are among 6,000 migrants from Central America who flooded into Tijuana in November after traveling through Mexico in caravans, overwhelming local authorities, and drawing the wrath of President Donald Trump, who in response deployed several thousand activity-duty military troops to the southern border.
Three months later, most of the 6,000 migrants are gone. Nearly half chose to wait in line for a chance to ask for asylum at the San Ysidro port of entry, despite the long waits. Most have already seen a U.S. immigration officer.
The remaining migrants chose to stay in Mexico, return home, or travel to other areas of the border, where they either attempted to enter the U.S. illegally or asked for asylum at other ports of entry, according to initial estimates from the Mexican government.
Rivera Martinez was deported from the U.S. in 2018, and therefore won't ask for asylum with the rest of the family. But he's relieved his family will finally get the chance to make their case for asylum in the U.S. after months in limbo in Tijuana.
When the caravan arrived, there were already 2,000 migrants waiting to claim asylum. They had arrived on their own.
With shelters at capacity, the city government opened a makeshift shelter at a sports complex to house the waves of Central Americans who arrived weekly for nearly a month.
But as more migrants arrived, living conditions began to deteriorate, and small groups of asylum seekers started crossing the border illegally.
By December, when 6,000 people packed the sports complex designed to hold 3,500, the federal government stepped in. They opened a larger shelter at a former concert venue farther from the border.
Mexican immigration officials shut it down the last week of January, with only a few dozen families remaining at the facility. The remaining families were transferred to permanent shelters.
With wait times to claim asylum stretching up to six weeks, it's unclear how many caravan members chose to cross the border illegally. The Mexican government estimated about 1,000 had made the attempt and were caught.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not corroborate that figure, only pointing to overall enforcement statistics.
"We do not identify those apprehend as members of the so-called caravan," a spokesperson for CBP in San Diego said. "However, San Diego Sector Border Patrol apprehended 5,812 in the month of December."
Total apprehensions that month is nearly 1,300 more than November, when the caravan arrived. The increase was largely driven by migrant families, the statistics show.
In January, as remaining members of the caravan waited to claim asylum, Border Patrol agents in the sector "averaged around 160 apprehensions daily," CBP added.
Meanwhile, a large group of Central American migrants traveling in a new caravan is making its way toward the U.S.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump vowed to build a "human wall" to stop "the tremendous numbers of people" coming through Mexico.
"Tremendous numbers of people are coming up through Mexico in the hopes of flooding our Southern Border. We have sent additional military. We will build a Human Wall if necessary. If we had a real Wall, this would be a non-event!," Trump said in a post to Twitter.
About 1,800 migrants from Central America reached Piedras Negras, a border city in Mexico across from Eagle Pass, Texas on Tuesday, to ask for asylum in the U.S., the San Antonio Express-News reported. Local and state governments paid to transport the migrants 270 miles from Saltillo, the capital of the state of Coahuila, to Piedras Negras, the newspaper reported.
The governor of Coahila said a shelter in Piedras Negras was at capacity and that no more migrants would be allowed into the state, Mexico News Daily reported.
In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, President Donald Trump said he had ordered another 3,700 troops to the southern border to help stop migrant caravans from entering the United States.
“More troops being sent to the Southern Border to stop the attempted Invasion of Illegals, through large Caravans, into our Country. We have stopped the previous Caravans, and we will stop these also. With a Wall it would be soooo much easier and less expensive. Being Built!’ Trump tweeted on Jan. 31.
The caravan left San Pedro Sula, a city in Honduras, on Jan. 15, with several hundred people.
On Jan. 29, U.S. Defense Under Secretary for Policy John Rood told a House Congressional hearing that the government was tracking three caravans, one with more than 12,000 people.
“There are three that we are tracking, the Department of Homeland Security is tracking, en route, one of which is over 12,000 people, in the latest estimate,” he said.
The hearing focused on troop deployments to the southern border.
Whether the latest caravan had, in fact, grown to 12,000 remained unclear.
On Thursday, Jan. 31, several media outlets in Mexico reported that about 2,374 migrants left a sports stadium in Mexico City that morning headed for the U.S. border.
Mexico began fast-tracking humanitarian visas for migrants traveling with the latest caravan but abruptly canceled the program on Jan. 29, after 12,600 migrants applied and 4,000 had already received humanitarian visas, The Wall Street Journal reported.
'We may try Nogales'
Migrants from Central America hoping to seek asylum in the U.S. increasingly travel in groups, or caravans, because they believe it is safer than traveling on their own. The large groups, they believe, reduce the risk of being preyed upon by criminal gangs or police seeking bribes in exchange for passages through Mexico.
The caravans often break into smaller groups or spread out as the migrants travel from Central America through Mexico.
Earlier caravans have traveled to Tijuana, this border city on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, across from nearby, San Diego. That's because Tijuana is considered safer than other Mexican border cities, it has a large network of shelters and humanitarian organizations that provide housing and legal assistance to migrants, and it borders California, a so-called sanctuary state that is considered more welcoming to undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers.
But migrants in the latest caravans told media outlets they are headed to cities other than Tijuana, possibly to avoid waits lasting weeks or months to ask for asylum in the U.S.
In January, the Trump administration launched a new policy—dubbed Remain in Mexico—that forces migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. to wait in Mexico while their cases are pending.
The policy is aimed at discouraging migrants from making the trip to the southern border to ask for asylum, many of whom the Trump administration believes are making fraudulent claims to exploit the U.S. immigration system.
The Trump administration implemented the policy at the San Ysidro border crossing near Tijuana on Jan. 25, when a single asylum seeker from Honduras was sent back to Mexico to await his hearing.
"We may try Nogales, or another port," Carlos Nunez, a migrant from Honduras, told Fox News.
U.S. officials have bolstered security along the border town of Eagle Pass, Texas, across from Piedra Negras, Mexico, where a caravan of mostly Honduran migrants is being held. It's the first caravan in recent months to have arrived at the Texas border. (Feb. 7)