As thousands of migrants from Central America wait in makeshift Tijuana shelters for a chance to apply for asylum in the U.S., a process that could take months, some have organized protests to pressure U.S. officials to devote more resources to speed up the process.
On Sunday, one of those protests, peaceful at first, turned chaotic when several hundred migrants broke away, overwhelming Mexican federal police officers before rushing a border fence and attempting to illegally enter the U.S.
In response, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers shut down both south and northbound traffic at the San Ysidro border crossing south of San Diego for nearly six hours. The closure disrupted one of the busiest border crossings in the world at the tail end of a holiday weekend when border crossings are typically packed with travelers.
CBP officers also fired tear gas after some migrants threw projectiles at them, U.S. officials said.
Several CBP officers were hit by the projectiles, the agency said on Twitter.
"After being prevented from entering the Port of Entry, some of these migrants attempted to breach legacy fence infrastructure along the border and sought to harm CBP personnel by throwing projectiles at them," Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement. "As I have continually stated, DHS will not tolerate this type of lawlessness and will not hesitate to shut down ports of entry for security and public safety reasons."
Photos posted on social media showed migrants running from the scene, some of them women with small children.
It was unclear if there were any injuries.
Al Otro Lado, a binational advocacy group that provides legal assistance to migrants seeking asylum, said the migrants were protesting peacefully when CBP fired tear gas.
"Women and children refugees who were peacefully demonstrating in Mexico injured by tear gas launched by US authorities," the group said on Twitter. "No one was trying to breach the border. All they wanted was an explanation as to why they were being forced to wait so long to ask for asylum."
About 500 migrants who took part in Sunday's protest and attempted to "violently" enter the U.S. were contained by Mexican authorities, Mexico's Secretary of the Interior said in a statement.
Migrants who took part in the protests and attempted to illegally enter the U.S. face deportation, the statement said, adding that they were hurting their objectives of seeking refuge in the U.S.
"These acts of provocation, far from helping achieve their objectives, are in violation of legal migration and could result in a grave incident at the border," the statement said.
CBP announced around 6 p.m. that southbound lanes at the San Ysidro port had reopened. A short while later, CBP announced that officials had begun processing travelers in the northbound lanes.