Some 2,000 Central American migrants who managed to cross from Guatemala into Mexico have vowed to continue marching toward the US. President Donald Trump has politicized the caravan ahead of the midterm elections.
About 2,000 Central American migrants who successfully crossed the Guatemalan border into Mexico voted in a show of hands on Saturday to reform their caravan and continue marching toward the US border.
The migrants in question, most of whom are from Honduras, had entered Mexico without registering by crossing the Suchiate River on the border with Guatemala, either by swimming or on makeshift rafts. It followed a chaotic day at the border on Friday when thousands surged through a series of police lines and barricades, only to ultimately be pushed back by Mexican officers in riot gear. Thousands remain stranded on the bridge connecting the two nations.
Rodrigo Abeja, one of the caravan’s leaders, told The Associated Press the group that crossed the border would move toward the Mexican city of Tapachula on Sunday morning. “We don’t yet know if we will make it to the (US) border, but we are going to keep going as far as we can,” he said.
The migrants gathered in a park on the Mexican side of the river crossing shouting “Let’s all walk together!” and “Yes we can!”
Mexico allows women, children to register as migrants
Meanwhile, authorities at Mexico’s southern border on Saturday allowed small groups of women and children to enter the country and be processed by immigration officials.
Those migrants were then taken to a shelter in Tapachula, some 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the border.
Most of the women and children had spent the night sleeping out in the open, either on the packed border bridge or in the Guatemalan border city of Tecun Uman.
Mexican authorities have insisted that those still stranded on the bridge crossing will have to file asylum claims one-by-one to gain access to the country. It remains unclear whether their applications are likely to be accepted.
Meanwhile, the Guatemalan government has organized a fleet of buses to take the migrants back to their native Honduras. Initial estimates suggest over 300 people have already taken up the offer.
Trump: Migrant caravan politically motivated
The migrant caravan’s decision to continue travelling toward the US comes despite assertions by US President Donald Trump on Friday that not a single one of them would be allowed to enter the United States “on [his] watch.”
Trump has sought to make the caravan and US border security a central issue ahead of midterm elections in just over two weeks’ time.
The president kept up that rhetoric during a rally in Elko, Nevada, on Saturday. “The Democrats want caravans, they like the caravans. A lot of people say ‘I wonder who started that caravan?'” he said.
Trump went on to praise Mexican authorities for trying to halt the caravan’s progress. “Mexico has been so incredible. Thank you Mexico and the leaders of Mexico, thank you,” he said. “And you know why, because now Mexico respects the leadership of the United States.”
However, Mexico’s increasingly no-nonsense approach to the large inflows of migrants has largely come on the back of Trump’s threats to cut aid and shut down the US-Mexico border if authorities did not stop them.
Back in Guatemala, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and his Guatemalan counterpart Jimmy Morales echoed Trump’s politicized theme as the pair met Saturday to discuss the crisis.
“This migration has political motivations,” said Morales, “which is violating the borders and the good faith of the states and of course putting at risk the most important thing, people.” Hernandez also deplored “the abuse of people’s needs” for “political reasons.”
Honduras, where most of the migrants are from, has seen violent street gangs brutally rule over large swathes of turf for years. With a homicide rate of nearly 43 citizens per 100,000, the country ranks among the poorest and most violent in the Americas