Kneeling in front of riot police, 32 religious leaders and activists were arrested at the US border fence in San Diego on Monday during a protest in support of the Central American migrant caravan.
More than 400 demonstrators, many leaders of churches, mosques, synagogues and indigenous communities, called for an end to detention and deportation of migrants and for the United States to welcome the caravan that arrived in Tijuana, Mexico in November.
Singing and praying, religious leaders moved forward in lines of four to six, some wearing t-shirts reading “Love Knows No Borders.” They were handcuffed and led away by federal agents once they entered a restricted area in front of the fence.
“As a Quaker who believes in our shared humanity… We’re calling on the U.S. to respect the rights of migrants,” said Joyce Ajlouny, general secretary of Quaker group the American Friends Service Committee, which organized the protest.
U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Theron Francisco said 31 people were arrested by Federal Protective Services for trespassing and one was arrested by Border Patrol for assaulting an agent.
The arrests marked the second confrontation with U.S. federal agents since the migrant caravan reached Tijuana. U.S. Border Patrol agents fired tear gas at migrants on Nov. 25 after they said they had stones thrown at them.
Thousands of migrants are living in crowded shelters in Tijuana after travelling from Central America to escape poverty and violence. They may have to wait weeks or months to claim asylum at the U.S. border.
U.S. migrant activist Pat Murphy, who heads a Catholic-run migrant shelter in Tijuana, said demonstrators intended to carry out a blessing at the border fence to start a week of action called “Love Knows No Borders: A moral call for migrant justice.”
“That was the idea, that we would meet at the wall and have a moment of prayer, but unfortunately the authorities of the U.S. were not in agreement with that,” said Murphy.