WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is beefing up legal resources on the Mexican border to deal with a high-profile caravan of asylum seekers trying to enter the country, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Wednesday.
“We are not going to let this country be overwhelmed. People are not going to caravan or otherwise stampede our border,” Sessions told reporters.
He said the Justice Department was sending 35 additional assistant U.S. attorneys and 18 immigration judges to the Mexican border.
More than 100 people, mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, have been camped in a square near the entrance of the San Ysidro pedestrian bridge that leads from Mexico to California, waiting for their turn to enter the facility.
Forty-nine people, mostly women, children and transgender people, were let through on Wednesday to seek asylum, raising the total number who have crossed to 74, according to organizers of the group.
They are part of a caravan of migrants travelling across Mexico that has dwindled since peaking at about 1,500 people under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump, who wants to toughen U.S. laws to make it harder for people to seek asylum, and Mexican authorities.
The U.S. Justice Department said on Monday it launched prosecutions against 11 “suspected” caravan members on charges of crossing the border illegally.
“We need legality and integrity in the system. People should wait their turn, ask to apply lawfully, before they get in our country,” Sessions said.
“We are sending a message worldwide: Don’t come illegally. Make your claim to enter America in the lawful way and wait your turn.”
Reporting by Eric Beech; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Peter Cooney