Central American migrants are now traveling through at least 12 Mexican states en route to the United States, according to authorities.
Members of the first migrant caravan began to split into smaller groups after leaving Mexico City over the weekend as they travel towards the Mexico-United States border at Tijuana.
One group, made up of around 80 women, children and members of the LGBT community, arrived in Tijuana yesterday, according to José García, who works at a migrant shelter in the northern border city.
Nine buses carrying about 350 more migrants reached Tijuana early today. A Honduran flag was seen fluttering outside a bus window.
Other members of the caravan have splintered off in different directions to reach other northern cities including Hermosillo, Sonora; Escuinapa, Sinaloa; and Monterrey, Nuevo León.
Authorities in Nayarit are continuing to provide buses to transport migrants to the state’s border with Sinaloa.
That leg of the journey is likely to come today or tomorrow for the largest contingent of the first caravan, located farther south in the country.
Most members of the group arrived in Guadalajara, Jalisco, yesterday and stayed last night in an auditorium in the neighboring municipality of Zapopan.
However, some migrants stayed in the city of La Piedad, Michoacán, around 160 kilometers southeast of Guadalajara.
Early yesterday morning, a huge contingent of migrants arrived at the entry to the Irapuato-Guadalajara highway to try to hitch rides to the Jalisco capital.
Two hours after their 5:00am arrival, some 500 migrants had managed to clamber on to passing trucks but a much larger number was still waiting for rides, the newspaper Milenio reported.
One 65-year-old man identified only as Luis Enrique climbed onto a tank truck only to be ordered by Federal Police to get off.
“I know it’s dangerous to travel this way but when one is poor there is no other choice,” he told Milenio as he waited for another ride.
A 32-year-old Guatemalan man who suffered first-degree burns to his face and chest while juggling fire torches to earn money at traffic lights in Irapuato was also among the migrants traveling towards Guadalajara yesterday.
One truck driver said that it was impossible to stop the migrants from boarding.
“. . . They climb on themselves, there’s no way of telling them no and getting them off . . .” he said.
Those who reached Guadalajara yesterday endured a five-hour journey exposed to the sun, strong wind and the constant risk of falling from the fast-moving and often-overcrowded trailers.
Members of the second caravan, made up of more than 1,000 migrants, began arriving in Mexico City yesterday from Puebla.
The third caravan, made up of around 450 Salvadoran migrants who entered Mexico legally, remain in Tapachula, Chiapas, awaiting immigration documents.
Meanwhile, a fourth caravan that crossed the southern border earlier this month is currently traveling through Veracruz en route to Puebla and Mexico City.
The Federal Interior Secretariat (Segob) announced yesterday that it has agreed to a proposal by the Business Coordinating Council (CCE) to offer employment opportunities to Central American migrants in several Mexican states on the condition that they formally register with immigration authorities.
President Peña Nieto announced a program last month called “Estás en tu Casa” (You are at home), offering shelter, medical attention, schooling and jobs to the migrants on the condition that they formally apply for refugee status with the National Immigration Institute (INM) and remain in Chiapas or Oaxaca.
However, most migrants rejected the offer and remain determined to reach the United States’ southern border, where they intend to apply for asylum.
In Tijuana, where most members of the first caravan are headed, migrant advocates warned that shelters in the city are already 75% full.
According to a report in the newspaper Reforma, there are 2,800 migrants — including Central Americans, Africans and Mexicans — who have been in Tijuana for up to a month waiting for the opportunity to lodge requests for asylum in the United States.
Baja California Interior Secretary Francisco Rueda said that state authorities are requesting 80 million pesos (US $3.9 million) from the federal government to pay for shelter, food, health care and humanitarian assistance while caravan members are in Tijuana.
While migrants have stayed in other Mexican cities for short periods, they could be in Tijuana for weeks or even months as they await the opportunity to request asylum.
“Other cities have welcomed them for two or three days, but one can foresee that a good number of them will stay in Tijuana for a long period . . .” the city’s Catholic archdiocese said in a statement Friday.
Some migrants are likely to be transferred to the state capital of Mexicali, located about 200 kilometers east of Tijuana, where shelters have capacity for 500 caravan members.
Rueda said that state and municipal authorities want the federal government to petition United States authorities to speed up the process to seek asylum.
However, United States President Trump is seeking to make it more difficult for caravan members to enter the country.
Trump has described the first caravan as an “invasion” and said that as many as 15,000 troops could be deployed to the U.S. southern border to meet the migrants.