After trekking more than 2,000 miles over several weeks, camping in rough conditions, and having inconsistent access to food, water, and health care, the first asylum seekers from the infamous “caravan of migrants” were allowed to walk across a bridge and through a door into the United States Monday night.
Eight women and children were granted the right to make their case for asylum in a US Customs and Border Patrol facility in San Diego, California.
More than 150 accompanying migrants remain across the Mexican border, waiting for their chance at an appeal.
“The hour I’ve waited for my entire life has finally arrived,” one asylum-seeker told the New York Times. “We’ve fought too much to get here. And we’re here.”
CBP spokesmen and women told Reuters that the facility is currently at capacity and their ability to process asylum seekers is limited.
US asylum courts are notoriously backlogged and some people end up waiting years for their cases to be resolved, often while being detained in conditions that the UN has denounced as inhumane.
The migrants in the caravan come from Central America, where they have fled violence, political instability, and poverty, and the majority of them are women and children.
While the group initially consisted of 1,500 people, that number has shrunk as law enforcement detained travelers and others dispersed along the journey.
Read More: 300 Children, 400 Women
US President Donald Trump has railed against the group in recent weeks, labeling them a “caravan” full of “dangerous” people and suggested that they pose a threat to national security.
Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. “Caravans” coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 1, 2018
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, meanwhile, called the caravan “a deliberate attempt to undermine our laws and overwhelm our system.”
And Vice President Mike Pence said that the migrants are “victims of open border advocates.”
The Trump administration, however, is obligated to process the asylum seekers under international law, Reuters reports.
Most claims for asylum from Central Americans, however, are rejected, according to Reuters, largely due to the fact that the threat back home doesn’t come from the government.
Critics of this pattern argue that asylum processing standards are outdated and do not reflect the rise of multinational criminal organizations that have control over vast territories in Central America.
Either way, the migrants waiting across the border in Mexico are eager to appeal for asylum, according to the Times.
“On one hand, I’m very happy that it’s finally beginning, that perhaps they will start to accept us little by little,” Orfa Marín, a Honduran immigrant who has been traveling with her three children and her partner, told the Times. “But on the other hand, we have to wait here until it’s our turn. It could be days.”