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U.S. border officials clash with migrants in asylum limbo

On Sunday, U.S. border patrol fired tear gas at crowds rushing the closed crossing in Tijuana. Witnesses described a chaotic scene in which people, including children, fainted from the gas. Mexico plans to deport nearly 100 of the migrants involved. As Amna Nawaz reports, the dramatic events come as President Trump’s recent limit to asylum grants is on hold pending a court decision.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Meantime, the U.S.-Mexico border is the focus of our second major story tonight.

    At issue, a confrontation between members of a migrant caravan and the U.S. Border Patrol.

    Amna Nawaz begins our coverage.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    A march 2,300 miles in the making ran into a closed border and tear gas on Sunday at the San Ysidro crossing in Tijuana. U.S. border guards fired the gas across the border into a crowd of thousands seeking asylum in U.S., after hundreds tried to rush the fence to cross.

    Myrna Lissette Amaya, from Honduras, described the scene.

  • Myrna Lissette Amaya (through translator):

    Many young children fainted. My daughter also got gassed. Pregnant women and there were many men who also fainted. There were some press members who helped throwing water to the children, and there was a child who was hardly breathing, and a person from the press grabbed him and took him away.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the Border Patrol's use of force.

    And, this morning, President Trump threatened he might — quote — "close the border permanently," and called for Mexico to do more about people he called stone cold criminals. He followed up this afternoon, outside the White House.

  • President Donald Trump:

    They had to use because they were being rushed by some very tough people and they used tear gas. And here's the bottom line: Nobody is coming into our country unless they come in legally.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Mexican officials, in turn, said today that nearly 100 migrants who rushed the border fence are being deported. Though border crossings are at historic lows, the number of asylum seekers has been increasing from more than 5,000 in 2007 to over 91,000 in 2016.

    In response, President Trump issued a new rule this month, saying that while those who cross legally can apply for asylum, those who — quote — "enter the United States unlawfully through the southern border will be ineligible to be granted asylum."

    A federal judge has suspended the policy for 30 days, as he considers whether it violates existing law.

    Meanwhile, across the border, the incoming government of president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador denied reports that it agreed to hold asylum seekers in Mexico while their claims were assessed in the U.S.

    All the confusion means more uncertainty for those awaiting their fate at the border.

  • Jose Tulio Rodriguez (through translator):

    We are desperate, hoping for a positive response. We hope that authorities can reach an agreement. It's not our intention to put the Mexican people out. Our hope is to get news for Christmas, good news for my family in Honduras.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    An estimated 5,000 migrants are in Tijuana, many hoping to seek asylum in the U.S. U.S. officials, however, are currently processing fewer than 100 applications a day.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Amna will be back with a longer look at border enforcement after the news summary.

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