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Border Patrol union chief says caravan ‘making a mockery’ of US system

PHOENIX – While U.S. inspectors have started allowing Central American asylum-seekers into the country for processing, the head of the Border Patrol agents union said some members of the caravan were “making a mockery” of the U.S. immigration system.

Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Tuesday that agents have sympathy for asylum-seekers seeking better lives.

But he criticized the methods of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, the group that organized the caravan, and asylum-seekers seen sitting on border fences and waving Honduran flags, “the symbol of the country that they’re fleeing.”

“If you’re sitting on top of our fence and you’re waving the American flag saying you want to come in because of all of your great laws and all of the great things that you have to offer, that’s understandable,” Judd said.

“But that’s not what they’re doing. They’re making a mockery of our system, and this is all about politics.”

U.S. border inspectors allowed some of the Central American asylum-seekers to enter the country for processing Monday, ending a brief impasse over lack of space. But the migrants who crossed Mexico in a caravan may face a long legal path.

Caravan organizers said eight members of the group criticized by President Donald Trump that traveled from southern Mexico to the border city of Tijuana were allowed in to be interviewed by asylum officers, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not provide a number.

About 140 others were still waiting in Mexico to turn themselves in at San Diego’s San Ysidro border crossing, the nation’s busiest, said Alex Mensing, project organizer for Pueblo Sin Fronteras.

“The spirits are high, there was good news for everybody,” Mensing said on the Mexican side of the crossing, moments after learning that some were allowed in.

Asylum-seekers are typically held up to three days at the border and turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. If they pass initial screenings by asylum officers, they may be detained or released with ankle monitors while their cases wind through immigration court, which can take years.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has pledged to send more immigration judges to the border if needed and threatened criminal prosecution. On Monday, the Justice Department said it filed illegal entry charges against 11 people identified as caravan members.

Judd said more than that have been caught trying to circumvent the legal process.

“What’s not been reported because the numbers haven’t been released, we’ve already arrested close to 50 people from this caravan that have crossed the border illegally,” he said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it processed hundreds of asylum-seekers in the previous week, many of them Mexican, which contributed to a bottleneck that led inspectors to turn away caravan members since they arrived late Sunday afternoon.

Asylum-seekers did not appear to be thrown off the by the delay.

Elin Orrellana, a 23-year-old pregnant woman from El Salvador, said she was fleeing the violent MS-13 street gang, a favorite target of both Sessions and Trump because of their brutal killings in communities in the United States. She said her older sister had been killed by the gang in El Salvador, so she was attempting to join other family members in the Kansas City area.

“Fighting on is worth it,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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