US Border Patrol shot tear gas and rubber bullets at a group of migrants, including toddlers, as members of the caravan tried to storm the border.
Children were screaming and coughing in the mayhem at the San Ysidro Port of Entry when American agents tried to push the surging Central Americans back.
They started to use crowd control on Sunday afternoon when migrants tried to cut a hole in the concertina wire gap on the Mexican side of the fence.
The tensions prompted US officials to close the crossing between Tijuana and San Diego, stopping thousands of people travelling legitimately between the US and Mexico.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she would not put up with this ‘lawlessness’ and threatened harsh punishments on anyone who ‘anyone who destroys federal property, endangers our frontline operators, or violates our sovereignty’.
She later added that border personnel were ‘struck by projectiles thrown by caravan members’. She condemned those responsible for their ‘dangerous’ actions that were ‘not consistent with peacefully seeking asylum’.
Mexico also vowed to deport about 500 migrants who tried to ‘violently’ and ‘illegally’ cross the U.S. border on Sunday, according to the Mexican Interior Ministry in a statement.
The statement added that Mexican authorities had contained the protest at the crossing between Tijuana and San Diego.
Despite heightened tensions there, Mexico said they would not send military forces to control 7,417 migrants from a caravan currently amassed at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Honduran migrant Ana Zuniga, 23, said she saw migrants open a small hole in concertina wire at a gap on the Mexican side of a levee, at which point U.S. agents fired tear gas at them.
‘We ran, but when you run the gas asphyxiates you more,’ she told the AP while cradling her 3-year-old daughter Valery in her arms.
Mexico’s Milenio TV also showed images of several migrants at the border trying to jump over the fence.
Yards away on the U.S. side, shoppers streamed in and out of an outlet mall.
U.S. Border Patrol helicopters flew overhead, while U.S. agents held vigil on foot beyond the wire fence in California.
‘Border Patrol agents deployed tear gas to dispel the group because of the risk to agents’ safety.
‘Several agents were hit by the projectiles. The situation is evolving and a statement is forthcoming.’
The Border Patrol office in San Diego said via Twitter that pedestrian crossings have been suspended at the San Ysidro port of entry at both the East and West facilities.
All northbound and southbound traffic was halted.
‘Our way of life relies on a safe, secure and functioning border.
‘From travel to shipping to daily commutes between San Diego and Tijuana, it is essential to our community.’
Earlier Sunday, several hundred Central American migrants pushed past a blockade of Mexican police who were standing guard near the international border crossing.
They appeared to easily pass through without using violence, and some of the migrants called on each other to remain peaceful.
They convened the demonstration to try to pressure the U.S. to hear their asylum claims and carried hand-painted American and Honduran flags while chanting: ‘We are not criminals! We are international workers!’