Honduran mom and children in iconic tear gas photo allowed into U.S.

The Honduran mother photographed with her young children fleeing a smoking tear gas can at the border was allowed into the United States to try to seek asylum, a California congressman and immigration lawyers said.

Maria Meza and her children were among a group of migrants and two Democratic lawmakers who had camped out Monday near the Otay Mesa port of entry in San Diego seeking to enter the United States.

"It all happened quickly, but I can report her kids were delighted to learn they were finally going to be processed and not be waiting outside in the cold," Christina Brown, an immigration attorney who had been with the asylum seekers, told NBC News Tuesday.

Congressman Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., said on Twitter that Meza and her children were allowed into the U.S. to claim asylum after waiting seven hours of waiting and being told the facility was at capacity.

By Tuesday morning around 8:00 a.m. local time (11:00 a.m. ET), 20 migrants had been allowed into the U.S. to be processed, said Kara Lynum, an immigration attorney who had also been with the group.

Lynum said the advocates and lawmakers led a group of 16 migrants, including Meza's family and unaccompanied migrant children, to the port of entry Monday afternoon to legally seek asylum.

Around 7 p.m. Monday evening a Honduran family of five was also turned away and ended up joining the larger group waiting outside, Lynum said.

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Migrants tear-gassed at the US-Mexico border
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Migrants tear-gassed at the US-Mexico border
A migrant girl from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, cries after running away from tear gas thrown by the U.S. border control near the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Migrants run from tear gas launched by U.S. agents, amid photojournalists covering the Mexico-U.S. border, after a group of migrants got past Mexican police at the Chaparral crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. The mayor of Tijuana has declared a humanitarian crisis in his border city and says that he has asked the United Nations for aid to deal with the approximately 5,000 Central American migrants who have arrived in the city. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Three Honduran migrants huddle in the riverbank amid tear gas fired by U.S. agents on the Mexico-U.S. border after they and a group of migrants got past Mexican police at the Chaparral border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. The mayor of Tijuana has declared a humanitarian crisis in his border city and says that he has asked the United Nations for aid to deal with the approximately 5,000 Central American migrants who have arrived in the city. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Migrants run from tear gas launched by U.S. agents, amid photojournalists covering the Mexico-U.S. border, after a group of migrants got past Mexican police at the Chaparral crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. The mayor of Tijuana has declared a humanitarian crisis in his border city and says that he has asked the United Nations for aid to deal with the approximately 5,000 Central American migrants who have arrived in the city. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Central American migrants -mostly Hondurans- cover their faces next to the bordering Tijuana River near the El Chaparral border crossing in Tijuana, Baja California State, Mexico, after the US Border Patrol threw tear gas to disperse them after an alleged verbal dispute, on November 25, 2018. - US officials closed the San Ysidro crossing point in southern California on Sunday after hundreds of migrants, part of the 'caravan' condemned by President Donald Trump, tried to breach a fence from Tijuana, authorities announced. (Photo by Guillermo Arias / AFP) (Photo credit should read GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Tear gas thrown by the US Border Patrol to disperse Central American migrants -mostly Hondurans- after an alleged verbal dispute is seen near the El Chaparral border crossing in Tijuana, Baja California State, Mexico, close to the S-Mexico border, on November 25, 2018. - US officials closed the San Ysidro crossing point in southern California on Sunday after hundreds of migrants, part of the 'caravan' condemned by President Donald Trump, tried to breach a fence from Tijuana, authorities announced. (Photo by GUILLERMO ARIAS / AFP) (Photo credit should read GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images)
A photojournalist is surrounded in a cloud of tear gas released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) after migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America, attempted to illegally cross the border into the United States from Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
A migrant, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America, covers his face after being affected by tear gas released by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) after hundreds attempted to illegally cross into the U.S from Mexico from Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, run from tear gas released by U.S border patrol, near the border fence between Mexico and the United States in Tijuana, Mexico, November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
A migrant reacts from tear gas thrown by the U.S. border patrol near the fence between Mexico and the United States in Tijuana, Mexico, November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes
Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States and journalists flee tear gas released by U.S. border patrol near the fence between Mexico and the United States in Tijuana, Mexico, November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, return to Mexico after being hit by tear gas by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) after attempting to illegally cross the border wall into the United States in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
U.S. soldiers and U.S. border patrols fire tear gas towards migrants, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, from the U.S.side of the border fence between Mexico and the United States in Tijuana, Mexico, November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Migrants and members of the media run from tear gas released by U.S border patrol near the fence between Mexico and the United States in Tijuana, Mexico, November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Migrants cover their faces, as they run from tear gas, thrown by the U.S border patrol near the fence between Mexico and the United States in Tijuana, Mexico, November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
A migrant covers his face as he runs from tear gas, thrown by the U.S border patrol, near the fence between Mexico and the United States in Tijuana, Mexico, November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Migrants run from tear gas, thrown by the U.S border patrol, near the border fence between Mexico and the United States in Tijuana, Mexico, November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
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Much of the group ended up waiting long hours outside in the cold to be processed, she said.

"Making children and vulnerable people or anyone go through this is absurd," she added

Congressman Gomez and Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán, D-Calif., shared updates throughout the night on Twitter, showing the group huddled together in coats and some with blankets.

Barragán said U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had refused to let the lawmakers inside the Otay Mesa facility, to show them the full capacity they were citing.

Late Monday evening, CBP tweeted that with the influx of Central American families, "the processing system at CBP and our partner agencies has hit capacity."

Meza’s family and eight unaccompanied children were let in to be processed for asylum, lawyers with the asylum seekers said earlier Tuesday.

Meza, a 39-year-old mother of five, was captured on camera by a veteran Reuter’s photographer after U.S. border authorities fired tear gas on hundreds of migrants who sought to enter the United States illegally near San Diego last month.

Thousands of Central American migrants traveling in so-called caravans had been crammed into shelters in Tijuana late last month after making the journey north. A large group of those migrants took part in a peaceful march on Nov. 26 when part of that group splintered off and tried to cross the border illegally. That led to the use of tear gas on the migrants and the shutting down the San Ysidro Port of Entry between San Diego and Tijuana for more than six hours.

Advocacy group Families Belong Together said on Twitter that it escorted “a handful of the most vulnerable refugees to a port of entry” long with Gomez, Barragán and other advocacy organizations.

The group added that the unaccompanied children were at risk of aging out of protections afforded to migrant minors if they were forced to wait in Tijuana, Mexico, to make their asylum claims past their 18th birthdays.

CBP put up fencing blocking the remaining group, according to the lawyers with the asylum seekers.

The group, along with six remaining asylum seekers had been waiting for at least 15 hours as of Tuesday morning, according to Families Belong Together.

 

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