More than 700 children and teenagers are among a large number of migrants waiting to file visa requests with the National Immigration Institute (INM) in Chiapas, and yet more are on the way from Honduras.
The minors have been stranded in Tapachula and Mapastepec for more than two months, according to a report by the news agency EFE.
The Central American, Haitian, Cuban and African migrants are seeking transit visas that will allow them to legally travel through Mexico to the northern border, where they plan to request asylum in the United States.
Many of the minors have been camping with their families outside the immigration office in Tapachula, where a Cuban migrant “crucified” himself on Sunday to protest arbitrary deportations and demand safe passage for migrants.
Earlier this year, the INM quickly issued more than 10,000 humanitarian visas that allow migrants to work in Mexico for a year and access services – or travel freely to the northern border – but more recent waves of arrivals have faced long waits for visas to be processed or even to plead their case to immigration authorities.
Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez said late last month that the government would no longer issue long-term humanitarian visas, although the INM implemented an emergency measure in Tapachula on April 1 to issue a limited number, with priority given to women, children and seniors over 65.
Yet the situation of most of the minors remains uncertain, and their impatience and fear are growing.
The children and teenagers only have limited access to food, medical services and education, EFE said, and as is the case with adult migrants, they are vulnerable to deportation, physical and sexual abuse and human trafficking, both while waiting to be attended to by INM personnel and during their journey through Mexico.
Some of the minors are suffering from medical problems such as malnutrition, insomnia and dehydration, and high temperatures and rain in Tapachula have made their situations even more difficult.
Meanwhile, another caravan of an estimated 1,000 migrants left San Pedro Sula, Honduras on Tuesday night for the United States. San Pedro is where the first of the migrant caravans originated last October.
The latest, which includes many families, was coordinated through social media.
“We’re screwed with this government, there is no work,” one of the Hondurans told the news agency Agence France Presse.
Another said he was heading north for the second time. The 18-year-old had been caught in Houston, Texas, and sent back home. “You cannot live here,” explaining that a gang had tried to coerce him into joining.
According to one report, hundreds of migrants are entering Mexico illegally every day. In Honduras, transportation services are keeping busy with the traffic, with six buses running full every night from San Pedro to the Guatemala border and carrying 30-50 passengers, a ticket agent said.
Fleeing poverty and violence in their countries of origin, tens of thousands of migrants have entered Mexico in recent months, many of whom arrived as part of several large caravans that originated in Central America.
Most have chosen to travel to northern border cities to seek asylum in the United States, drawing the ire of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has threatened to close the border if Mexico doesn’t do more to stem migration flows.