Between 1,000 and 1,500 Central American migrants entered Mexico illegally at the southern border early this morning, one day after another large group crossed into the country legally and in an “orderly” way.
The migrants crossed the border at Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas, just before 5:00am and continued walking towards the city of Tapachula without stopping to register their entry into Mexico.
Yesterday, the National Immigration Institute (INM) said that 969 migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua crossed into Ciudad Hidalgo after they were given identification bracelets by Mexican officials.
The bracelets must be kept on until they formally register with authorities.
However, today’s cohort didn’t wait for immigration officials to give them bracelets and according to some media reports, they broke down a barrier to cross into Mexico.
Marco Antonio Cortéz, a 37-year-old Honduran migrant traveling with his wife and two children, told the news agency Reuters that “the road today was open,” adding “they didn’t give us bracelets or anything, they just let us pass through Mexico migration.”
Ana Laura Martínez de Lara, INM director of migratory control and verification, said yesterday that once registered, migrants who meet the requirements to stay will be issued with humanitarian visas that allow them to work in Mexico and access services or travel to the northern border to apply for asylum in the United States.
The visas are expected to be issued within five days, but migrants who crossed the border today appear unwilling to wait.
The group that crossed yesterday remains in Ciudad Hidalgo waiting to be transferred to a shelter where they will be provided with meals and have access to medical services. As with past caravans, there are a lot of children traveling with their parents or other relatives.
Martínez de Lara said the migrants who entered Mexico at the official border crossing yesterday did so in a “very orderly” and respectful manner in contrast with a clash at the same crossing in October that left one Honduran man dead.
A Honduran man working as a boatman on the Suchiate River told the news agency AFP that he had taken around 100 people on rafts made of inflatable tires and wooden slats.
Earlier this week, Alejandro Encinas, undersecretary for human rights, migration and population in the Secretariat of the Interior, said the federal government was determined to avoid any repeat of violence at the southern border and warned that migrants would not be permitted to “bang down the door.”
However, “he who enters in a regular manner will have no impediment,” he said. It remains to be seen what approach the government will take towards those who entered illegally today.
The decision to grant visas to the migrants who crossed legally yesterday makes good on President López Obrador’s pledge to allow Central Americans to work in Mexico as part of a strategy to stem the flow of people to the United States.
In exchange, López Obrador has made it clear he wants the U.S. to invest in southern Mexico and Central America to stimulate economic development and help keep people at home. Migration should be an option not a necessity, he often says.
The Mexican and United States governments last month agreed to work together on a development plan to curb migration and the latter pledged to contribute US $10.6 billion but most of that funding is not new because it will be allocated from existing aid programs.
Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard will meet United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later this month to discuss the migration issue, which has strained bilateral relations.
Thousands of migrants who traveled to Mexico as part of several caravans in the final months of 2018 remain stranded on Mexico’s northern border as they wait for the opportunity to apply for asylum with U.S. authorities, who have introduced a “metering” system that limits the number of cases they will hear on a daily basis.
In support of the U.S. government’s “Remain in Mexico” plan, the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs announced last month that Mexico would take back some non-Mexican migrants who have requested asylum in the United States while they await the outcome of their claims.
United States President Donald Trump continues to argue that the only solution to the arrival of migrant caravans, illegal immigration and drug flows across the Mexico-U.S. border is to build his long-promised wall.
“Another big caravan heading our way. Very hard to stop without a Wall!” he wrote on Twitter today.
Trump remains locked in a bitter battle with the Democratic Party over US $5.7 billion in funding for the wall that he wants Congress to approve. The standoff has partially shut down the United States government for almost a month.