A caravan of around 1,500 migrants from Central America and Cuba left Tapachula, Chiapas, Saturday to begin the journey to the United States border.
In contrast with past cohorts, the migrants formed the caravan inside Mexican territory, the National Immigration Institute (INM) said.
Before leaving Tapachula, Cuban migrants accused INM personnel of deliberately delaying the delivery of visas to allow them to travel legally through Mexico, while Central Americans charged that agents demanded bribes in order to speed up the visa process.
After a 12-hour walk in temperatures as high as 38 C, the caravan reached the municipality of Huehuetán on Saturday afternoon where the migrants rested until resuming their journey today, bound for Huixtla.
Federal Police are accompanying the caravan in order to avoid accidents or other incidents on the highway.
Thousands of migrants have entered Mexico in recent months to travel to the United States, drawing the ire of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has described the caravans as an “invasion.”
Earlier this month, the United States government announced that it would return asylum-seeking migrants to Mexico via a second border crossing to await their immigration court hearings.
The Mexican government rejected the expansion of the so-called “Remain in Mexico” plan, calling it “a unilateral measure implemented by the United States authorities.”
President López Obrador has pledged that his government will treat migrants humanely while they are in Mexico and more than 10,000 people have been granted visas that allow them to work and access essential services.
However, there are reports that Mexican immigration officials at the northern border have extorted asylum seekers.
According to a report by the news website Vice that was based on the testimonies of 10 migrants, officials have demanded as much as US $3,500 from asylum seekers in order to access certain points of entry to the United States so they can add their names to a waitlist for an appointment with U.S. authorities.
On March 14 – the day after the Vice report was published – López Obrador said his government was investigating corruption by customs and immigration agents.
“The government is full of corrupt practices, it has been for a long time. But we are cleaning it, we will end corruption,” he said.
Thousands of migrants have been stranded in Mexican border cities such as Tijuana as they wait for the opportunity to plead their cases for asylum.
The United States government has introduced a “metering” system that limits the number of cases immigration authorities will hear on a daily basis, spurring some migrants to attempt to cross the border illegally.