The government of Honduras has rejected the claim by Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero that “a mother of all caravans” is forming in that country, while a migrant advocacy group contends that the term was used as a ploy to justify the implementation of stricter immigration policies in Mexico.
Honduran deputy foreign secretary Nelly Jeréz said yesterday that “there is no indication of such a caravan” and “this type of information” only encourages people to leave the country.
Jeréz’s remarks came after United States Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen met with Honduran, Guatemalan and Salvadoran officials in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to discuss the issue of migration.
Her department said in a statement that Nielsen signed a multilateral compact with the three Central American countries that aims to bolster border security, prevent the formation of new migrant caravans and address the root causes of the migration crisis.
A day after her own meeting with Nielsen, Interior Secretary Sánchez said Wednesday that “we are aware that a new caravan is forming in Honduras that they’re calling the mother of all caravans . . . and which could be [made up of] more than 20,000 people.”
She also said that the Mexican government plans to set up federal checkpoints on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to halt the flow of migrants as they travel through the country.
But the non-governmental organization Pueblos Sin Fronteras (People Without Borders) contended that the containment belt policy was ordered by the United States government and that Sánchez used the “mother of all caravans” term to justify it.
It pointed out that the interior secretary didn’t provide any evidence or details to support the claim that such a large caravan was gathering.
“The only certainty is that after the meeting with Nielsen, the Mexican government planted the idea of the ‘mother of all caravans’ in its discourse to justify the United States contention order, demonstrating a Mexican immigration policy that is servile and submissive to the Trump government,” Pueblos Sin Fronteras said.
The organization contended that the federal government has “sold out to the interests” of the Trump administration.
“By promoting the idea of the ‘mother of all caravans orchestrated by criminal groups,’ the Mexican government is contributing to a migration crisis that justifies the extension and strengthening of the [border] wall – just what Trump has been looking for,” it said.
“The discourse of fear and crisis spreads criminalizing, racist and xenophobic sentiment against migrants . . . and coincides with the discourse Trump is using for his presidential reelection. It appears that the Mexican government is part of the election strategy of the current United States administration,” the statement continued.
“The creation of an atmosphere of crisis in migration to Mexico and the United States is conducive to [making] law changes that have a security focus and don’t respect human rights.”
Despite those claims, Sánchez’s indication that federal forces will be deployed to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to stem migration failed to appease President Trump.
He wrote on Twitter yesterday that “Mexico is doing nothing to help stop the flow of illegal immigrants to our country,” adding “they are all talk and no action.”
Today, Trump said that “if Mexico doesn’t immediately stop all illegal immigration coming into the United States through our southern border, I will be closing the border or large sections of the border next week,” reiterating the threat he made both on Twitter and at a rally in Michigan yesterday.
President López Obrador today refused to be drawn in on Trump’s threats, stating “we want to have a good relationship with the United States, we’re not going to argue.”
He added: “this thing about the caravans . . . has a lot to do with politics, electoral matters, that’s why I’m not going to get roped into the issue.”
López Obrador said yesterday that it’s necessary to “review” how migrant caravans are organized, “whether they are spontaneous . . . whether there are political or electoral purposes.”
He also said that “it is legitimate that they [the United States government] are displeased and they voice these concerns.”
Asked whether his government would stop the so-called “mother of all caravans,” the president – who has vowed to treat migrants with respect – was cautious.
“Yes, but everything will be voluntary, nothing by force,” he said, explaining that Central Americans will be offered work on government projects such as the Maya Train.
Mexico has already issued more than 10,000 humanitarian visas that allow migrants to live and work in Mexico for up to 12 months.
However, thousands of migrants fleeing violence and poverty in their countries of origin – especially Honduras – have continued to arrive in Mexico’s border cities to attempt to claim asylum in the United States.