“As in the past when we’ve had to limit the number of people we can bring in for processing at a given time, we expect that this will be a temporary situation,” the statement said.
During the delay, most of the migrants adopted mind-sets of hardened patience.
“Really, nobody’s said anything,” said Arnaldo Rivera, 40, who fled his native Honduras with his wife and five children after the family was threatened by a gang. They were among the migrants who were waiting outside the entrance to the border crossing on Sunday, eating donated food and using a nearby public bathroom.
The family had staked out a patch of the pedestrian plaza by spreading out a blanket and demarcating it with a few knapsacks containing their belongings.
“It could be this afternoon, it could be tomorrow,” he said, shrugging. “God has the last word.”
Late Sunday, local, state and federal authorities tried to persuade the migrants to decamp from the pedestrian plaza and spend the night in shelters. But in an act of communal defiance, the caravan’s participants elected to remain where they were. As the officials walked away, the migrants applauded and cheered.
“We’ve experienced a lot, and this isn’t going to stop us,” said Shannel Smith, 29, who fled gang violence in Honduras and is one of about 35 transgender migrants in the caravan.
Ms. Smith was part of a delegation of about 50 migrants who were selected by the lawyers and caravan organizers to approach the American border entry on Sunday afternoon and test the authorities’ claim that they had no capacity to process asylum petitions.
But no members of that group, many of them children, were allowed to pass through the gate. Some decided to remain there for much of the night, corralled behind metal barricades and huddled under blankets on the cold concrete ground, maintaining pressure on the American government.
More than 24 hours after they arrived, eight members were finally invited to step through the gate.