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38 Iraqis Detained at Mexico-U.S. Border
by Ben Fox - Associated Press
Posted: Thursday, September 21, 2000 03:43 pm CST

SAN DIEGO (September 20, 2000 5:30 p.m. EDT - U.S. police and immigration authorities detained 38 Iraqis on Wednesday after they tried to walk across the Mexican border and into the United States, apparently seeking asylum from religious persecution.

The adults and children arrived at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, which links San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, in small groups without visas to enter the country, said Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

All were being held at the world's busiest border crossing while the INS awaited translators to determine whether the Iraqis qualify to enter the United States, Mack said.

"They are very well, very calm, very quiet," she said.

Immigration authorities received a letter from someone claiming to represent the Iraqis that said they are members of the Chaldean minority and had been waiting along with others in Tijuana for permission to enter the United States, said an INS official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

They grew tired of waiting and decided to present themselves en masse to U.S. authorities, the official said. At least 150 more Chaldeans have been detained by Mexican authorities in the Tijuana area, the official said.

In recent years, Chaldeans have applied for political asylum because of religious persecution in Iraq, a predominantly Muslim country.

But it is unusual for them to attempt to enter from Mexico. U.S. authorities are still trying to determine how they arrived and whether they had the assistance of a smuggling ring, authorities said.

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