Attempts to prevent thousands of Central American migrants from entering Mexico proved futile today when an estimated 5,000 crossed the border and began marching to Tapachula, some 40 kilometers away.
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.
Soon after noon, the caravan, most of whose members fled violence and poverty in Honduras last Friday, arrived in Tapachula.
Most are believed to have crossed the border from Guatemala illegally, rafting and swimming across the Suchiate river, despite warnings by Mexican officials that they would be deported if they had no documentation.
The crowd was simply too big for police and immigration officials to stop.
Some officials claimed late yesterday that as many as 2,000 had been persuaded to return to Honduras but that number appears to have been a wild exaggeration and reports now indicate the number is about 500.
More than 600 accepted an offer by Mexican authorities to apply for refugee status and have remained in Ciudad Hidalgo, on the border.
But several attempts today to persuade the caravan to stay in shelters arranged for them fell on deaf ears.
Federal Police commissioner Manelich Castilla told reporters that the objective was not to detain the migrants but provide them with support and review their immigration status, and give the travelers an opportunity to “make the best decisions.”
The decisions, however, appear to have been made, at least for the short term. David López, a caravan leader, said they intend to spend a few days in Tapachula before deciding whether to continue to Mexico’s northern border, where U.S. President Donald Trump will be waiting.
He said on Twitter today the caravan will be turned away.
López said the migrants number 5,000 but there has been no official estimate.