Hundreds of Central American migrants arrive at U.S. border in Tijuana

ESCUINAPA, Mexico (AP) — Migrants in a caravan of Central Americans scrambled Wednesday to reach the U.S. border, arriving by the hundreds in Tijuana, while U.S. authorities across the border were readying razor wire security barriers.

Authorities in Tijuana were struggling to deal with a group of 357 migrants who arrived aboard nine buses Tuesday and another group of 398 that arrived Wednesday.

Josue Vargas, an immigrant from Honduras who finally pulled into Tijuana Wednesday after more than a month on the road, said "Mexico has been excellent, we have no complaint about Mexico. The United States remains to be seen."

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, meanwhile, went to visit U.S. troops posted to the border in south Texas, and said the deployment provides good training for war.

That didn't deter arriving groups of Central Americans from going to a stretch of border fence in Tijuana to celebrate.

On Tuesday, a couple of dozen migrants scaled the steel border fence to celebrate their arrival, chanting "Yes, we could!" and one man dropped over to the U.S. side briefly as border agents watched from a distance. He ran quickly back to the fence.

Tijuana's head of migrant services, Cesar Palencia Chavez, said authorities offered to take the migrants to shelters immediately, but they initially refused.

See a day in the life of the caravan:

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A day in the life of the migrant caravan in Mexico
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A day in the life of the migrant caravan in Mexico
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, takes a rest on the road, as she walks to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, rests on the road with her son Adonai, as they make their way to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File photo SEARCH "GLENDA ESCOBAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, plays with her son Adonai in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, sleeps in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, poses for a photograph with her children Adonai and Denzel in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, smiles as she rests in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, poses with her son Denzel, 8, as they rest in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, rests in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, rests on the road with her son Denzel as they walk to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, prepares the sleeping place after arriving at a makeshift camp with her sons Adonai and Denzel, in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Denzel, 8, holds his brother Adonai, 5, near their mother Glenda Escobar, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, as they walk to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, prepares the sleeping place after arriving at a makeshift camp with her sons Adonai and Denzel, in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, cries after talking on the phone, in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, rests on the road, on her way to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, poses for a photograph as she rests in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, takes a ride in a vintage car with her children Adonai and Denzel, as they walk to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Adonai, 5, son of Glenda Escobar, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, smiles as he rests in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, prepares the sleeping place after arriving at a makeshift camp with her children Adonai and Denzel, in Pijijiapan, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
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"They wanted to stay together in a single shelter," Palencia Chavez said, "but at this time that's not possible" because shelters are designed for smaller groups and generally offer separate facilities for men, women and families.

But he said that after their visit to the border, most were taken to shelters in groups of 30 or 40.

With a total of three caravans moving through Mexico including 7,000 to 10,000 migrants in all, questions arose as to how Tijuana would deal with such a huge influx, especially given U.S. moves to tighten border security and make it harder to claim asylum.

On Wednesday, buses and trucks carried some migrants into the state of Sinaloa along the Gulf of California and further northward into the border state of Sonora.

The bulk of the main caravan appeared to be about 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers) from the border, but was moving hundreds of miles per day.

The Rev. Miguel Angel Soto, director of the Casa de Migrante — House of the Migrant — in the Sinaloa capital of Culiacan, said about 2,000 migrants had arrived in that area. He said the state government, the Roman Catholic Church and Escuinapa officials were helping the migrants.

The priest also said the church had been able to get "good people" to provide buses for moving migrants northward. He said so far 24 buses had left Escuinapa, Sinaloa, on an eight-drive to Navojoa in Sonora state. Small groups were reported in the northern cities of Saltillo and Monterrey, in the region near Texas.

From Sonora, some migrants said they had already caught buses from to Tijuana.

About 1,300 migrants in a second caravan were resting at a stadium in Mexico City, where the first group had stayed last week.

Migrants break down fence at Mexico border:

29 PHOTOS
Migrants traveling in mass caravan break fence at Mexico border
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Migrants traveling in mass caravan break fence at Mexico border
A police officer helps a Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., as she storms a border checkpoint to cross into Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., ties a backpack from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., climbs down from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., hits the shield of a federal policeman after storming the Guatemalan checkpoint to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., jump and climb down from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala to avoid the border checkpoint as others look while queueing to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A police officer helps a Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., as she storms a border checkpoint to cross into Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A federal policeman gestures as Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., are being pushed by other migrants after storming the Guatemalan checkpoint to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., hits the shield of a federal policeman after storming the Guatemalan checkpoint to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., protects her child as a federal police reacts after migrants stormed the Guatemalan checkpoint to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., jump and climb down from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala to avoid the border checkpoint as others look while queueing to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., are pushed by other migrants after storming the Guatemalan checkpoint to enter Mexico, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., jumps from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., climbs down from the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala with the help of fellow immigrants to avoid the border checkpoint in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., storm a border checkpoint, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., cries after stormed a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., topple a fence after storming the Guatemala border in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., jumps over a fence in the checkpoint between Guatemala and Mexico in Tecun Uman, Guatemala October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., storm a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., bleeds after he storms a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., storm a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A police officer helps a Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., as she storms a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., fall after storming a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., storm a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., storm a border checkpoint, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., climb a fence in an effort to enter Mexico after storming a border checkpoint in Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant child, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., cries next to a fence in the checkpoint between Guatemala and Mexico in Tecun Uman, Guatemala October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., yell as they storm a border checkpoint, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., react after storming the Guatemala border, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
A Honduran migrant, part of a caravan trying to reach the U.S., yells as he storms a border checkpoint, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
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Many say they are fleeing poverty, gang violence and political instability in the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Mexico has offered refuge, asylum or work visas, and its government said Monday that 2,697 temporary visas had been issued to individuals and families to cover them during the 45-day application process for more permanent status. Some 533 migrants had requested a voluntary return to their countries, the government reported.

The U.S. government said it was starting work Tuesday to "harden" the border crossing from Tijuana ahead of the caravans.

Customs and Border Protection announced it was closing four lanes at the busy San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports of entry in San Diego, California, so it could install infrastructure.

That still leaves a substantial path for the tens of thousands of people who cross daily: Twenty-three lanes remain open at San Ysidro and 12 at Otay Mesa.

San Ysidro is the border's busiest crossing, with about 110,000 people entering the U.S. every day. That traffic includes some 40,000 vehicles, 34,000 pedestrians and 150 to 200 buses.

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