SAN DIEGO — People in the caravan who tried to breach the US border between Tijuana and San Diego over the weekend made it past only one of two border barriers before they were stopped by US border agents.
Videos of Sunday’s chaotic scene at the border, which resulted in the closing of the San Ysidro Port of Entry, the busiest land crossing in the Western Hemisphere, show members of a caravan of Central Americans pushing through a fence before being repulsed by border authorities shooting tear gas and pepper pellets.
What the videos don’t show is that those who made it through that fence — a barrier constructed of corrugated aluminum used for temporary landing strips during the Vietnam War and topped with concertina wire — were stopped by another newer and taller barrier that wasn’t breached.
The 42 people apprehended by US border agents during Sunday’s incident were nabbed in the space between the old fence and the newer section, US Customs and Border Protection confirmed to BuzzFeed News. None breached the new, second barrier, CBP said. The second barrier is part of a $147 million project begun in June to replace about 14 miles of 8- to 10-feet-tall scrap metal wall with an 18- to 30-foot bollard-style wall, CBP said.
“We found the newly constructed portions of the wall to be very effective,” CBP spokesperson Ralph DeSio said in a message to BuzzFeed News. “There were no breaches along the newly constructed border wall areas.”
The fact that the would-be border crossers never made it out of the area between the two fences before being confronted by tear gas and pepper pellets, and were apparently not in a position to breach the second barrier, provides new perspective on the events of Sunday, which President Trump has used as evidence to back his call for a border wall.
“Move forward, move forward,” a man can be heard saying in one video.
“Calmly calmly,” another says.
No US agents are visible in the area as the migrants push through the fence. But moments later, border agents pulled up in vehicles and fired tear gas and pepper pellets at the crowd, which ran away immediately after the first rounds were fired. Some of the younger men can then be seen throwing rocks over the fence.
Sunday’s march to the border in Tijuana began peacefully, but soon turned into a free-for-all after the group was blocked by Mexican Federal Police from walking on an overpass, and members then ran through a side street toward what’s known as the Chaparral pedestrian crossing, a wide plaza that leads to the US port of entry at San Ysidro.
The group crossed the nearby Tijuana River, where another group of Central Americans would be teargassed later in the day, and made its way to a train crossing nearby. That was where they pushed through the first barrier and confronted the larger barrier behind it.
In the wake of the incident, US authorities moved quickly to beef up security in the area. By Tuesday afternoon, the openings in the first fence had been covered by sheet metal. At least a dozen armed US border agents in blue were stationed between the two barriers, and three others had taken positions on a walkway above the second barrier.
On the Mexican side, federal police officers had been stationed near the area, sitting near the rail tracks with their shields and riot gear on the ground in front of them.
Three men were fixing a fence on the Mexican side that had been destroyed in Sunday’s events, but the area seemed to have returned to business as usual as taxis pulled up to the street just in front of the fence, ready to give rides to people who had just crossed into Tijuana from the US, and vans disgorged people who were headed to the border to cross into the United States.