TIJUANA, Mexico – Sixty Mexican migrants were detained Sunday by U.S. authorities after they crossed into the United States from the border city of Tijuana as part of a protest against U.S. immigration policies.
It was the third such group to try to enter the U.S. at the Otay Mesa border crossing in San Diego and ask for asylum in the last week.
The group, led by two young sisters whose parents live in North Carolina, held signs that read “Undocumented Unashamed,” and “Immigration reform starts here.” They said before crossing that they were protesting a growing number of deportations during President Barack Obama’s administration and demanding an overhaul of U.S. immigration laws.
The sisters, Jacqueline and Marisol Aparicio, ages 11 and 12, said they want to reunite with their parents, whom they haven’t seen in 10 years.
Mothers holding their children’s hands, young students and others met outside a Tijuana health clinic before heading to the U.S.
Among them was Felipe Molina, 22, who wants to get back to North Carolina where his family lives.
“I lived in Durham (North Carolina) from age 8 to 18. I went to high school there, my parents and sisters still live there,” Molina said. “I came back to Mexico … because I wanted to study sound engineering. I couldn’t study in the U.S. because it was too expensive for foreigners.”
Molina said he studied and worked in Mexico but couldn’t finish university because money was scarce. He said he has suffered discrimination because he is gay.
Demonstrators known as “dreamers” first claimed asylum at border crossings in Arizona and Texas last year. They call themselves “dreamers” after the Dream Act, failed legislation that was designed to allow some young immigrants to stay in the U.S.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said privacy laws prohibit the agency from saying what happened to those who have tried to enter the country and asked for asylum.
People who claim asylum are interviewed by authorities to determine if their claims are credible, then either released or held pending the outcome of cases. To grant asylum, an immigration judge must find that an applicant suffers persecution or has a well-grounded fear of persecution on grounds of race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or political opinion.
Migrant rights activists said another group would cross from Tijuana into the United States on Tuesday.