The migrant caravan that has drawn the ire of United States President Donald Trump is expected to leave Oaxaca tomorrow to continue its journey towards Puebla, albeit with a depleted number of members and a revised final destination of Mexico City.
About 1,500 Central American migrants — mainly Hondurans — arrived in Matías Romero in the state’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec region Saturday, of whom about 1,200 remain in the town.
Approximately 300 men left Matías Romero early Sunday morning on a freight train commonly used by migrants and known colloquially as La Bestia, or “The Beast.”
Mayor Marco Antonio Cabello Mares said that the migrants, who have slept in a local sports stadium since their arrival, would be transported by bus to the municipality of Jesús Carranza, Veracruz, before continuing their journey to Puebla.
Between April 5 and 8, members of the caravan will attend workshops in that city where they will be able to access legal advice about the options available to them to apply for asylum either in Mexico or the United States.
A coordinator from Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People Without Borders) — the advocacy group which organized the caravan — told reporters yesterday that many of the migrants are escaping political persecution.
“This is a caravan of displaced Hondurans . . . after the presidential election there was persecution by the army against the opposition population,” Rodrigo Abeja said.
The caravan is part of an annual Easter campaign organized since 2010 but has attracted much greater attention this year due to its larger size and a series of tweets from President Trump railing against it.
At the White House yesterday, Trump claimed partial credit for the dispersion of the caravan, stating “I’ve just heard that the caravan coming up from Honduras is broken up, and Mexico did that.”
“And they did it because, frankly, I said, ‘You really have to do it,'” the president added, referring to the two-day Twitter tirade he directed at Mexico, which included threats to terminate NAFTA if Mexico didn’t move to stop the flow of migrants.
Trump also said yesterday that he is planning to send the military to secure the United States’ border with Mexico.
Despite the U.S. president’s claims, the Mexican government yesterday rejected that internal or external pressure led to the dispersion of the caravan’s members.
“As expected the caravan known as the Migrant’s Way of the Cross began to break up at the decision of its members,” the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE) and Interior Secretariat (Segob) said in a joint statement.
The statement reiterated that Mexico’s migration policy is “exercised in a sovereign manner and according to the law.”
It also said that 465 caravan members have requested exit permits, which regularize their immigration status in Mexico, but mean that they must leave Mexico within 20 days.
Authorities carried out a census at the makeshift migrant camp yesterday and, according to the SRE/Segob statement, 230 exit permits have already been granted while a further 168 would be issued “in the coming hours.”
In a previous press release Monday, the government said that 400 members of the caravan had been repatriated to their countries of origin because they didn’t enter Mexico lawfully.
It also asserted that “under no circumstances does the government of Mexico promote irregular migration.”
Despite President Trump’s angry rhetoric against the caravan, the Pueblo Sin Fronteras Mexico director said that it would not be deterred from fighting for migrants’ rights and forging ahead on its journey.
“The Migrant’s Way of the Cross is continuing its path, we have an agenda, Donald Trump will not stop [the caravan] . . .”Irineo Mujica declared.
However, he clarified that it will now conclude in the Mexican capital rather than at the Mexico-U.S. border as originally planned.