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‘I didn’t come here to cross illegally. I came here for help’

More than 300 Central Americans have arrived in Tijuana, Mexico, in recent days, and plan on Sunday to ask for asylum at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. But President Trump has tweeted that Homeland Security is instructed to turn them away. Special correspondent Jean Guerrero of KPBS reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    But first: Over the past few days, more than 300 Central Americans have arrived in Tijuana, Mexico.

    On Sunday, they plan to ask for asylum at the San Ysidro, California, port of entry.

    As Jean Guerrero of PBS station KPBS in San Diego reports, the Justice Department has directed U.S. attorneys to — quote — "take immediate action" to send judges and prosecutors to the border to adjudicate cases quickly.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    Jeimy Pastora Castro cradles her baby outside the San Ysidro port of entry in Tijuana. She's among hundreds of Central Americans who plan to ask for asylum, part of a caravan the Trump administration has accused of planning to enter the U.S. illegally.

  • Jeimy Pastora Castro (through translator):

    I didn't come here to cross illegally. I came here for help, for the president to have a heart, since he's a human like us and was also created by God.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    Castro and most of the other migrants come from Honduras, where a divisive presidential election last fall has led to killings in the streets.

  • Jeimy Pastora Castro (through translator):

    I have heard they don't give asylum anymore, that the U.S. isn't helping anyone, that they're going to deport me and take my daughter away.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    The caravans are organized by a human rights collective called Pueblo Sin Fronteras, and have occurred for more than a decade, to raise awareness about violence in Central America. But this year's attracted more attention due to the Trump administration's new policies.

    President Trump said in a tweet Monday that he had instructed Homeland Security to turn the caravan away. And, yesterday, the department's secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, said officials would enforce immigration laws.

  • Kirstjen Nielsen:

    If you illegally enter our country, you will be referred for prosecution. If you file a false asylum claim, you will be referred for prosecution. If you aid and abet or coach someone to break our laws, you also will be referred for prosecution.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    Immigration lawyers are planning to offer legal advice to the migrants before their planned crossing on Sunday.

    Attorney Nicole Ramos says the government can't refuse them entry, because U.S. and international law require that asylum-seekers get a fair hearing.

  • Nicole Ramos:

    I think it's just a way for him to rile up Americans who fear brown immigrants invading their borders, to create this image that a caravan of Central Americans are coming to descend upon America.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    Buses of Central Americans have been trickling into Tijuana all week, mostly families with children. Most stay at migrant shelters like (INAUDIBLE) where coordinators take down names, ages and home countries.

    After weeks of traveling tough Mexico, many are hungry. This young boy was given a plate to eat. Reina Isabel Rodriguez came with her 7-year-old grandson, whom she says she adopted after a gang in El Salvador kidnapped his mother.

  • Reina Isabel Rodriguez (through translator):

    If we arrived here, it's because God permitted it. He gave me courage, strength to disappear from my country.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    Mario Llerena is a 26-year-old member of the caravan who says he's fleeing violence. He declined to say what part of Central America he's from, for fear of the gangs there. Llerena says he's not interested in sneaking across.

  • Mario Llerena (through translator):

    A thief doesn't announce he's coming. We have announced we're coming. Trump knows. Or has he not been notified?

  • Jean Guerrero:

    He and others who are waiting to cross on Sunday say they have the legal right to ask for asylum.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jean Guerrero in Tijuana.

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