Migrants, part of a 'caravan' of thousands from Central America trying to reach the US, are forced back to Mexico by US Customs and Border Protection officials in Tijuana, Mexico, November 25 2018. Picture: REUTERS/ADREES LATIF
Migrants, part of a 'caravan' of thousands from Central America trying to reach the US, are forced back to Mexico by US Customs and Border Protection officials in Tijuana, Mexico, November 25 2018. Picture: REUTERS/ADREES LATIF

  US President Donald Trump said on Monday that Mexico should send migrants seeking US asylum back to their home countries, a day after US authorities shut the country’s busiest southern border crossing and fired tear gas into the crowd.

 He threatened again to close the 3,200km US-Mexico border.   

Trump repeated his call on Congress to fund his long-promised border wall as US legislators returned to Washington on Monday after the US Thanksgiving holiday break with federal government funding set to expire on December 7. He has repeatedly threatened to shut down the federal government unless the wall is funded.

Sunday's showdown took place at part of the border where there is already a physical barrier.  US officials had reopened the crossing at the San Ysidro port of entry between San Diego and Tijuana, the most heavily trafficked land border in the western hemisphere after shutting it down for several hours. 

“Mexico should move the flag-waving migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries," Trump tweeted. "Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it any way you want, but they are NOT coming into the USA. We will close the Border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the WALL!” 

Hundreds of caravan members including women and children protested peacefully on Sunday with chants of “We aren’t criminals! We are hard workers.” As they neared the US border, they were stopped by Mexican authorities, who told them to wait for permission.

The migrants, mostly Honduran, are fleeing poverty and violence and have said they will wait in Tijuana until they can request asylum in the US.

For weeks before the November 6 congressional elections, Trump raised alarm about the caravan of migrants heading for the US and ordered about 5,800 US troops to the border to support US Customs and Border Protection.

Trump has just a few weeks left to push his fellow Republicans who control both chambers of Congress, to make good on the wall before Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in January after election gains.

Democrats have urged more comprehensive immigration reform in addition to extra border security, but have opposed the wall fiercely.

US and Mexican negotiators discussed a plan on Sunday to keep the migrants in Mexico while their asylum claims are heard. Asylum seekers typically announce their intention at US ports of entry or after crossing the border illegally.

Reuters