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US fires tear gas into Mexico to repel migrants

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TIJUANA, MEXICO: US authorities shut the country's busiest border crossing and fired tear gas into Mexico on Sunday to repel Central American migrants after US President Donald Trump vowed the asylum-seekers would not easily enter the country.

Traffic in both directions was suspended for several hours at the San Ysidro port of entry between San Diego and Tijuana, US officials said, disrupting trade at the most heavily trafficked land border in the Western Hemisphere.

Pedestrian crossings and vehicle traffic later resumed, officials said.

Tensions had been rising, with thousands of Central American migrants camped out in a sports stadium in Tijuana.

On Sunday, Mexican police broke up the latest in a series of daily protests, triggering a rush toward the US border.

US Customs and Border Protection officers stopped the migrants with a volley of gas canisters as US and Mexican government helicopters flew overhead.

The Mexican government said it had retaken control of the border crossing after nearly 500 migrants tried to cross the US border "in a violent manner," and vowed to deport Central Americans who attempt to enter the US illegally.

The caravan of mostly Honduran migrants are fleeing poverty and violence and have said they would wait in Tijuana until they could request asylum in the US, despite growing US measures to tighten the border.

Hundreds of caravan members including women and children protested peacefully on Sunday with chants of "We aren't criminals! We are hard workers."

As they neared the US border, they were stopped by Mexican authorities, who told them to wait for permission.

But as it became clear they would not get permission, people started to express frustration. Groups of migrants, some of them bearing the Honduran flag, headed toward the border fence, where US police officers waited on the other side.

The agents responded with tear gas after the migrants hit them with projectiles, US Customs and Border Protection said on Twitter. "Border Patrol agents deployed tear gas to dispel the group because of the risk to agents' safety," it said.

Migrants were caught between Mexican and US authorities. A woman was knocked unconscious and babies cried, eyes streaming from the gas, a Reuters witness said.

"They want us to wait in Mexico but I for one am desperate. My little girl is sick and I don't even have money for milk,"said Mr Joseph Garcia, 32, of Honduras. "I can't stand it anymore." - REUTERS

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