Hundreds of people tried to storm the US-Mexico border on Sunday, after a rumor that migrants would be allowed to cross into the United States.
Around noon, a large crowd of mainly Venezuelans began to gather near the entrance of a bridge connecting Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez to El Paso, Texas in the southern United States.
Frustrated by delays and difficulties in applying for asylum in the United States after journeys thousands of miles long through Central America and Mexico, some told AFP they thought they would be allowed entry because of a supposed “day of the migrant” celebration.
Images on social media showed a group that included many women and children running towards the border, shouting “to the USA.”
They quickly encountered barbed wire, orange barricades and police with shields.
US border guards “of course” moved to close the bridge, said Enrique Valenzuela, a civil society worker who helps migrants in Juarez.
Jackson Solis, a 23-year-old Venezuelan, was among those who came to the bridge on Sunday to see if the rumor was true.
“We all ran and they put a fence with barbed wire around us. They threw tear gas at us,” he said.
Solis told AFP he had been waiting six months to try to schedule an appointment to apply for asylum in the United States, where he wants to work.
Appointments must now be booked through a Customs and Border Protection mobile app that was introduced this year as asylum seekers were required to apply in advance rather than upon arrival.
The Biden administration has been hoping to stem the record tide of migrants and asylum seekers undertaking often dangerous journeys organized by human smugglers to get to the United States.
In January, the White House proposed expanding a controversial rule to allow border guards to turn away more would-be migrants if they arrive by land.
“Do not just show up at the border,” President Joe Biden said in a speech at the time.
Biden took office vowing to give refuge to asylum seekers and end harsh detention policies for illegal border crossers.
About 200,000 people try to cross the border from Mexico to the United States each month.
Most are from Central and South America and cite poverty and violence back home in requesting asylum.