Bay Area man helps caravan migrants claim asylum at U.S.- Mexico border

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A caravan of 150 migrants seeking asylum arrived at the U.S. border with Mexico over the weekend.

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The Department of Justice filed criminal charges against eleven people from the caravan, accused of entering the U.S. illegally. Eight women and children were allowed into the San Ysidro port of entry, to begin the process of claiming asylum, in line with U.S. law.

The rest of the caravan is still waiting for their opportunity to present their case.

"This is women and children, fathers, grandchildren," explains Alex Mensing who spoke to ABC7 via Skype from the San Ysidro Border Crossing in Tijuana. Mensing lives in Oakland and is a paralegal, volunteering for Pueblo Sin Fronteras.

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Like others from the organization, he's traveled with the caravan on parts of their journey from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, through Mexico, sometimes by train or bus, other times on foot.

Mensing says the migrant families are fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries, "she's from El Salvador, she has two kids and one of her children was unfortunately threatened by gang members and they were given a certain amount of time to flee."

When the caravan finally reached the border over the weekend, Customs and Border Protection told the group of 150 refugees they were at capacity.

"Everyone has been denied any sort of initiation of process and they've been rejected and sent back to Mexico," explained Mensing, who adds, "What the members of the caravan decided to do was to stay to set up camp outside the port of entry."
Mensing says they have food and water, but could use more help, supplies and volunteers from people near the border.

RELATED: Caravan of migrants reaches US border, temporarily turned away by Border Patrol

As they sit and wait, Vice President Mike Pence is only a few hours away in Calexico, checking on construction of a barrier being built along the Southern border. "This is the beginning of keeping our promise to the American people that we're going to build a wall," said Vice President Mike Pence.

A sentiment reinforced by President Trump, who has called the caravan a threat to national security, "we gotta have a wall, and we need border security."

Mensing has been a part of other caravans in the past and says asylum seekers were processed faster in those instances.

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