The U.S. Border Patrol's top San Diego agent says violent migrants who stormed the U.S.-Mexico border on Sunday shoved women and children to the front of the mob to use as human shields.
"What we saw over and over yesterday was that the group – the caravan, as we call them – would push women and children to the front, and then begin, basically, rocking our agents,” Chief Patrol Agent Rodney Scott said in a CNN interview.
"Several agents were actually struck by rocks," Scott said, noting that three were injured.
National Border Patrol Council president Brandon Judd backed up Scott's assertion, saying male migrants used women and children as shields as they threw rocks at U.S. border agents.
"They pushed women and children up front. And then behind those women and children, they started throwing rocks, cement bricks, they started throwing bottles at our Border Patrol agents," Judd said in a Fox News interview.
Meanwhile, Scott said the thousands of migrants gathered in Tijuana just south of the U.S. border won't qualify for asylum because they're actually looking for jobs, not fleeing war-torn nations. And he said few are even trying to win asylum.
"What I saw on the border yesterday was not people walking up to Border Patrol agents and asking to claim asylum," he said. "Matter of fact, one of the groups I watched, one of the groups that several of them were arrested, they passed 10 or 15 marked Border Patrol units ... numerous uniformed personnel, as they were chanting, waving a Honduran flag, and throwing rocks at the agents," the San Diego border chief said.
During a political rally in Tupelo, Mississippi, on Monday, President Trump said his administration will continue to enforce U.S. law and bar foreigners from entering illegally.
"We will not tolerate any form of assault or attack upon our border agents, like happened yesterday, or any attempt to destroy federal property, overrun federal authorities or bring chaos and violence to American soil," Trump said. "And if you look at what's happening along the border, you see what's happening. The mayor of Tijuana, he said, these are tough people. These people fight when you talk to them. These are tough people."
The situation is not likely to get better any time soon, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
A day after U.S. agents fired tear gas to repel migrants breaking through the border fence in Southern California, Homeland Security officials defended the use of force and their decision to close the country's busiest port of entry, saying they expect additional confrontations and shutdowns.
Facing dismal conditions in Mexico and long waits for the chance to request asylum in the United States, thousands of Central American migrants are becoming more agitated, and officials see no quick resolution to the tensions that erupted Sunday.
The flow of caravan groups to Tijuana has slowed in recent days, but busloads of other migrants have arrived in Mexicali, 90 miles to the east, where the U.S. border crossing has even less capacity to process asylum seekers. Desperation there could leave U.S. border agents facing volatile crowds in two locations.