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Mexico Will Deport 98 People to Honduras Following Border-Rushing Melee in Tijuana

[dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]ixty-nine people were apprehended by U.S. agents in the melee that erupted after hundreds attempted to rush the border boundary in Tijuana on Sunday. On the Mexican side, 98 people are in Mexican immigration custody and are to be deported, mostly to Honduras, officials said.

The arrests marked a wild and largely unfamiliar scene at the busiest border crossing in the Western Hemisphere.

An estimated 500 people — reportedly mostly men, although some women and children were present — attempted to rush the Chaparral port entry between Tijuana and the San Diego community of San Ysidro. Mexican federal police in riot gear and U.S. agents across the line pushed back the group. Scenes of chaos spread globally after border officers fired tear gas and pepper balls to repel the migrants, who were seen scattering across the concrete channel of the Tijuana River where it reaches U.S. territory.

“Fumes were carried by the wind toward people who were hundreds of feet away,” the Associated Press reported.

On Monday, Kevin McAleenan, the Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, said that four agents were hit with rocks during the incident. McAleenan praised the “less than lethal” force used, but critics called the violence unwarranted and implored the United States to open more slots in the trickle of approximately 100 asylum cases that are processed daily at the Tijuana border.

[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he caravan, which originated in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, is filled largely with migrants who are escaping desperate poverty and threats of violence from powerful street gangs in the Central American nation. They've spent weeks migrating through Guatemala and Mexico to reach the U.S.

The Sunday incident sparked fear and frustration among other refugees or migrants who are waiting to process asylum requests at the Tijuana port, as well commuters who regularly cross the binational line for work or school. Thousands in successive caravans or waves of migrants from Central America as well as Haiti have converged in Tijuana in recent years, seeking entry north.

The latest images of people streaming chaotically toward the United States seemed to fuel conservative, reactionary claims that the migrant caravan constitutes an “invasion” by the people seeking legal asylum at the border. President Donald Trump called on Mexico to round up the migrants and send them back to Honduras.

“Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries,” Trump tweeted early Monday. “Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it anyway you want, but they are NOT coming into the U.S.A. We will close the Border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the WALL!”

Use of force is rare but not totally unseen in the San Diego-Tijuana region. In 2013, a group of about 100 migrants “threw rocks and bottles” at Border Patrol agents, who responded with “pepper balls,” according to an account by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The use of military personnel on the border — a controversial tack that is widely seen as a waste of Pentagon resources — is also not new. President Obama sent around 1,200 National Guard troops to the border in 2010, a move seen at the time as largely geared toward placating Republican critics of Obama’s border-security record.

American authorities did not specify if the people detained on the U.S. side will face criminal charges first before seeking their deportation. Mexico said it was seeking the "immediate deportation" of the 98 people its agents detained on Sunday.

RELATED: Border Patrol Checkpoints and Weed: Not Much Is Actually Changing

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