Immigration authorities have registered almost 5,000 Central American migrants over the past four days, many of whom entered Mexico at the southern border last week as part of a new caravan.
The National Immigration Institute (INM) registered 4,912 migrants both at the border between Mexico and Guatemala at Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas, and in the Tapachula central square, where some of the caravan members have camped out since their arrival.
The migrants are from six countries including Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Among those who have formalized their entry to Mexico are 1,007 children and teenagers, and members of previous caravans who remained in southwestern Chiapas rather than continuing to the United States border with other migrants.
Authorities said that 59 have already been issued humanitarian visas, which allow them to work and access health care services for 12 months.
One of the recipients, 27-year-old Honduran Bayron Adan Lara Mejia, said “I feel Mexican now,” adding that he no longer wanted to make the journey to the United States border.
Around 400 migrants who entered Mexico illegally early Friday morning and walked to Tapachula returned to the border crossing to regularize their immigration status, the newspaper Milenio reported.
However, about 1,000 illegal migrants are believed to be in the United States-bound migrant caravan.
Milenio reported that some migrants were persuaded by polleros, or people smugglers, in the Guatemalan border town of Tecún Umán not to go through official immigration channels when entering Mexico.
The smugglers reportedly tell migrants that if they register with Mexican authorities, they will be deported en masse back to their countries of origin.
Around 500 members of the caravan, which left the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula on January 14, reached Oaxaca yesterday on buses provided by the Chiapas government.
The migrants camped out last night in the central square of San Pedro Tapanatepec, a town in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region.
In contrast to what occurred with past caravans, the migrants were not welcomed into the town by local authorities, church groups and other organizations and were not provided with food, water or medical services.
The latest migrant caravan is the first to enter Mexico since President López Obrador took office on December 1 but thousands arrived as part of several groups in the final two months of Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration.
Many of them remain stranded on Mexico’s northern border, especially in Tijuana, where they face long waits to apply for asylum with United States authorities.
The new government has vowed to treat migrants with respect and López Obrador has suggested that some will be able to find work on projects in the south of the country such as the Maya train.