Tensions rise at U.S.-Mexico border as migrants, holiday travelers wait to cross

A migrant boy, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, runs while holding a toy at a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico November 22, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

By Lizbeth Diaz

TIJUANA (Reuters) – Hundreds of Central American migrants in Mexico massed on Thursday around a tense U.S. border crossing, where security measures held up long lines of Mexicans headed to Thanksgiving gatherings on the other side of the frontier.

With few belongings and many of them with children in tow, the migrants set out for the crossing from the baseball field in the Mexican border city of Tijuana where they have been camped out. Around 6,000 migrants who have trekked across Mexico in a caravan in recent weeks are now crammed into the field.

They arrived at the Chaparral border crossing, opposite San Diego, California, and said they would wait there until they could request asylum, in spite of growing U.S. measures to tighten the border.

“We are already desperate, last night it rained and we all got wet. There is no room left. We are all sick. My children have a cold … and nobody has come to give us help,” said David, a Honduran who only provided his first name.

Earlier on Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump said he had authorized the use of lethal force on the border and warned that the United States could close the whole frontier.

The San Ysidro vehicular crossing into San Diego, one of the busiest in the world, was briefly shuttered in the afternoon by U.S. officials as they performed a security exercise.

Tens of thousands of Mexicans enter the United States daily to work or study, and many were trying to get to Thanksgiving celebrations. Mariana del Campo, a retired professor, had hoped to make it across before the closing but was stuck in the line.

“What’s happening on the border is maddening,” she said as she waited in her car. “I don’t know how long we can put up with this. Someone is going to get tired or explode.”

Also stuck in her car waiting to cross for Thanksgiving was 54-year-old Aurora Diaz, who said her U.S.-based daughter was reluctant to visit Mexico in case Trump closed the border.

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, make their way to the El Chaparral port of entry border crossing between Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, November 22, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, make their way to the El Chaparral port of entry border crossing between Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, November 22, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

U.S. OR BUST

Tensions were palpable at the pedestrian crossing where the Central Americans had gathered. Mexican police and soldiers stood guard while a helicopter buzzed over the U.S side.

Edgar Corzo, an official from Mexico’s human rights commission, spoke into a megaphone to the crowd, telling them they could request assistance in Mexico.

But migrants arrived with blankets and prepared to bed down for the night outside the border station. Some of the children cried and complained of the cold.

Authorities in Tijuana said the migrants are facing up to a six-month wait to be able to get an appointment to plead their case for asylum with U.S. authorities.

Earlier this week, U.S. officials briefly closed the main border crossing in Tijuana, putting up concrete barricades and razor wire after reports that migrants could try to rush the crossing.

“I want President Trump to know that we’re peaceful people, we don’t have weapons, we haven’t come to do evil,” said a man who declined to give his name, holding a white flag on a wooden stick that read “Peace, God is with us.” “We want to work, we want them to help us for the love of God,” he added.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz, Writing by Michael O’Boyle, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

U.S. might ban laptops on all flights into and out of the country

A TSA worker loads suitcases at the checked luggage security screening station at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California,

By Toni Clarke

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States might ban laptops from aircraft cabins on all flights into and out of the country as part of a ramped-up effort to protect against potential security threats, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on Sunday.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Kelly said the United States planned to “raise the bar” on airline security, including tightening screening of carry-on items.

“That’s the thing that they are obsessed with, the terrorists, the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it’s a U.S. carrier, particularly if it’s full of U.S. people.”

In March, the government imposed restrictions on large electronic devices in aircraft cabins on flights from 10 airports, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey.

Kelly said the move would be part of a broader airline security effort to combat what he called “a real sophisticated threat.” He said no decision had been made as to the timing of any ban.

“We are still following the intelligence,” he said, “and are in the process of defining this, but we’re going to raise the bar generally speaking for aviation much higher than it is now.”

Airlines are concerned that a broad ban on laptops may erode customer demand. But none wants an incident aboard one of its airplanes.

“Whatever comes out, we’ll have to comply with,” Oscar Munoz, chief executive officer of United Airlines told¬† the company’s annual meeting last week.

Airlines were blindsided in January when President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning entry for 90 days to citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, sending airlines scrambling to determine who could board and who could not. The order was later blocked in the courts.

In the case of laptops, the administration is keeping the industry in the loop. Delta Air Lines ¬†said in a statement it “continues to be in close contact with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,” while Munoz applauded the administration for giving the company a “heads up.”

“We’ve had constant updates on the subject,” he said. “We know more than most. And again, if there’s a credible threat out there, we need to make sure we take the appropriate measures.”

MORE SCRUTINY OF CARRY-ONS

Among the enhanced security measures will likely be tighter screening of carry-on items to allow Transport Security Administration agents to discern problematic items in tightly stuffed bags.

Kelly said that in order to avoid paying fees for checking bags, people were stuffing them to the point where it was difficult to see through the clutter.

“The more stuff is in there, the less the TSA professionals that are looking at what’s in those bags through the monitors can tell what’s in them.”

The TSA has begun testing certain new procedures at a limited number of airports, requiring people to remove additional items from carry-on bags for separate screenings.

Asked whether the government would expand such measures nationwide, Kelly said: “We might, and likely will.”

(Reporting by Toni Clarke in Washington; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington, David French in New York and Alana Wise in Chicago; Editing by David Gregorio and Peter Cooney)