An estimated 5,000 Central American migrants resumed their march towards the United States today after camping out last night in Tapachula, Chiapas.
The huge caravan of migrants, made up mainly of Hondurans fleeing poverty and violence but also Salvadorans and Guatemalans, set out this morning for Huixtla, a town about 40 kilometers north of Tapachula.
A video posted to social media showed hundreds of migrants hitching a ride on the back of trailers. Mexicans are also handing out food and water along the roadside.
About 700 unarmed elements of the Federal Police — the majority of them women — set up a human barricade on the Suchiate-Tapachula highway but when the massive throng came within 200 meters, they withdrew.
Last night, the migrants slept on benches and on the ground in Tapachula’s central square.
And Guatemalan authorities said there are more on the way. Another group of 1,000 entered that country from Honduras yesterday.
There are also reports of another 1,000 migrants walking towards Tapachula from the Chiapas border town of Ciudad Hidalgo.
In Tapachula, a 20-year-old woman identified only as Kinsiller told the newspaper El Universal that she and her two-year-old daughter were forced to leave Honduras out of necessity.
“We had to leave my country, we didn’t have work or anything to eat,” she said.
Kinsiller explained that after hearing about the migrant caravan that left the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula 10 days ago, she along with family members, friends and neighbors, decided to join the group.
“We said: ‘let’s go, this is the opportunity to get ahead,’” she explained, adding that she only earned 2,000 lempiras per month (US $83) in her last job as a domestic worker — an amount that was scarcely enough to feed her daughter.
Alva, a 50-year-old Honduran woman who is traveling with her son and two grandchildren, said she hoped to reach the United States to be reunited with her daughter.
“My daughter had to flee so she wouldn’t be killed. By chance, she witnessed the execution of a man by gunfire, she was also shot and I’m afraid that those people will kill us,” she said.
Besi Jacqueline López, another Honduran woman who is traveling with her two young daughters, said she couldn’t find work at home despite having a degree in business administration.
López said she wanted to make it to the United States but that she would stay in Mexico if she found work here.
The migrant caravan, the largest ever to reach Mexico, has raised the ire of United States President Trump, who is using the issue of illegal immigration to rally his supporters ahead of the U.S. midterm elections.
“Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws! Remember the Midterms! So unfair to those who come in legally,” he wrote on Twitter this morning.
That post followed a tweet in which Trump wrote: “Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States. Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy. Must change laws!”
He also said that the United States will “begin cutting off or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to” Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Despite the U.S. president’s claim, the Associated Press said that a team of its journalists that has been traveling with the caravan for more than a week has not met anyone from the Middle East.
Denis Omar Contreras, a Honduran caravan leader from the migrant advocacy group Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People Without Borders), said Trump’s claim about the make-up of the group was plain wrong.
“There isn’t a single terrorist here,” he said. “We are all people from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. And as far as I know there are no terrorists in those four countries, at least beyond the corrupt governments.”
President-elect López Obrador suggested yesterday that Mexico, the United States and Canada create a joint plan for funding development for Central America and southern Mexico.
“We don’t want temporary actions because if the problem isn’t dealt with at its base, people will always look for the possibility of improving [their lives]. People don’t abandon their towns because they want to but out of necessity,” he said.
Future foreign secretary Marcelo Ebrard responded to Trump’s Twitter posts today, stating that the incoming government will not use the military to stop migrants as the U.S. president has suggested he will.
“We would not agree to use the army in Mexico against migrants. There is no agreement, it would be unacceptable,” he said.
Caravan leaders have not yet defined which route will be taken through Mexico or where on the Mexico-United States border they want to arrive.
However, the caravan is expected to break up as it moves further north as groups traveling at different speeds split off. Others will likely seek to remain in Mexico.
“We can’t get to the northern border all together,” said Irineo Mujica of Pueblo Sin Fronteras.
“You can’t move a group so large across hundreds of miles. Impossible.”