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CBP: In 48 hours, 449 Central Americans crossed into U.S. near Yuma

In a 48-hour period, 449 people from Central America, many of them in family groups, surrendered to Yuma-area Border Patrol agents this week, authorities said. 

After their apprehensions Tuesday and Wednesday, the families asked for asylum, and will be handed over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an official said. 

Just before midnight on Tuesday, a Border Patrol camera operator reported that a group of 82 people were climbing over the "legacy" landing-mat border wall, east of the San Luis Port of Entry. Most of them were families from Guatemala, although three people were from El Salvador, and included a 2-year-old toddler and a 48-year-old adult, said Jose Garibay, a spokesman for the Border Patrol's Yuma Sector. 

Four hours later, a second group of 83 people clambered beneath the landing mat wall using a shallow hole dug into the sand. Most of the people, including a 2-year-old toddler and a 40-year-old adult, were also from Guatemala, but 14 were from El Salvador, Garibay said. 

In a video released by the agency, a group of people rendered in the ghostly grays and blacks of infrared video wait until a Border Patrol SUV drives up, and then they walk toward the vehicle and the agent inside. 

Garibay noted that the two groups crossed into the U.S. using an old portion of the wall, which lacks the improved concrete footer that new wall prototypes have which "prevents easy digging underneath." 

"Yuma Sector continues to see increasing numbers of aliens crossing illegally into its area of responsibility from countries other than Mexico where they are able to exploit the outdated infrastructure," said Garibay. 

The Yuma Sector has 126 miles of linear border, and about 107 miles has some kind of "primary fencing," including areas of secondary and tertiary fencing near the town of San Luis, Arizona that includes landing mat fencing, a steel wall made of Vietnam War-era metal panels, as well as the modern "bollard" wall. 

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On Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and newly-installed acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker, announced they were seeking to narrow asylum claims, banning people who crossed into the U.S. illegally from getting asylum. 

Current U.S. law allows people to seek asylum regardless of how they entered the United States, and experts have said that a legal fight is coming over how the Trump administration can use its powers under the Immigration and Naturalization Act to reject asylum seekers if they came to the U.S. without going through a port of entry. 

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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CBP

A still from an infrared video showing people crawling out from under the 'legacy' border wall east of the San Luis Port of Entry, and surrendering to a Border Patrol agent.