There were only two dozen.
They held out their phones to the coach’s windows to film their first moments in a new country from the inside.
The smile and the agitation said it all.
Image: Only a handful of people have been allowed to cross the border – but more are expected to follow
They were the most dramatic and visible illustration to date of Joe Biden’s outright rejection of Donald Trump’s immigration policy.
The group was chosen from tens of thousands of people forced by the Trump administration to wait in Mexico while their claims for asylum in the United States were processed.
The “Stay in Mexico” policy was just one of many controversial Trump border measures.
But, under the warm winter sun at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego, years of uncertainty have ended. For a handful anyway.
The most vulnerable were chosen first.
The Biden administration has begun the process of slowly clearing the backlog that has built up at the border in Tijuana.
Image: Mr Trump’s border policies have caused tension in the United States
The goal is to process a few hundred of them each day and send them to points across America to wait for a court date.
From his first day in office, the new president signaled an approach to immigration that is the opposite of Trump’s.
On the Muslim ban, the border wall and young migrants, everything is different now.
Getting “Stay in Mexico” is just the last thing. “This is a very historic moment,” activist Dulce Garcia said. “Even though it’s only 25 people at the start, it’s a step in the right direction.”
Image: Activist Dulce Garcia describes the moment as ‘historic’
A lawyer who has previously sued Trump, Garcia is herself undocumented, one of those who are regularly labeled as illegal. Taken to America as a child, she was in danger of being deported during Trump’s presidency.
Now she sees a Biden administration even insisting on the use of the term “non-citizen” instead of “illegal immigrant” in messages and among immigration officials.
“This is something we have been screaming for, to get rid of the hateful rhetoric. It’s not about sticks and stones or hurt feelings. It’s about how we treat people. other human beings. “
Biden’s immigration laws are sure to meet fierce opposition in Washington. The change at the border also encountered practical problems. Many of those who wish to enter do not have the online access they need to complete the paperwork.
But there is greater concern, even among immigration activists, that Biden’s softer tone is sending a signal to potential migrants that the border is open.
This as the White House insists that, for most people seeking entry, the policies remain the same for the time being and the border is in fact closed.
Image: Tijuana is just over the US border in San Diego
Images of so-called migrant caravans from Central America heading north to Mexico are causing concern among those offering support at the border.
“People are starting to move in this direction,” said Chris Williams, who heads refugee services at Catholic Charities in San Diego.
“We are very concerned about what will happen if they arrive here and the country is not yet ready or able to admit them.”
There are, however, many for whom desperation is such that they take the risk.
Image: Felix says he’s ‘optimistic’ he can cross the border
Felix fled Honduras for fear of the gangs that murdered his brother. He’s now waiting across the US-Mexico border in Tijuana.
“I am optimistic but the authorized numbers are very low. I do not know what will happen to me but I have more hope.”
The inspiration is these first 25 to cross, the coach taking them to new life, the shadow of new sections of Trump’s border wall disappearing in the rearview mirror.
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