The biggest migrant caravan since the start of the pandemic is heading towards the US, with an estimated 4,000 people walking through Mexico towards the border.
The group of mostly Central Americans, branded the ‘mother of all caravans’ is trekking through Chiapas state in southern Mexico but their progress has been hampered by the large number of children in their group.
About 2,000 migrants had walked out of the southern city of Tapachula near the Guatemala border on Saturday.
Migrants heading in a caravan to the US, walk towards Mexico City to request asylum and refugee status
The biggest migrant caravan since the start of the pandemic is heading towards the US
The crowd of mostly Central Americans are trekking across southern Mexico but their journey has been hampered by the large number of children in their group
While the multitude is challenging to count, it appeared significantly larger when it left Huixtla after a day of rest and its leaders estimated its size at 4,000. It reached the town of Villa Comaltitlan on Wednesday.
Around 1,000 state police officers and Texas Rangers assigned to monitor the border is readying to guard against the surge.
A month has passed since Texas state law enforcement agents played a role in preventing some 15,000 migrants – mostly Haitians – from crossing the United States-Mexico border.
The state troopers and Rangers would be expected to do the same in the coming days, but with a smaller caravan of migrants predominantly led by Central Americans that is marching through southern Mexico toward the United States.
‘The caravan is like a magnet, it goes sucking up people, migrants who had been in the towns (of coastal Chiapas) are joining,’ said Irineo Mújica, an immigration activist with the organization People without Borders.
One of them was Bayron Zavala, a Nicaraguan migrant, who hearing that the caravan was advancing slowly, got on a bicycle and caught up with them in Huixtla.
He said he would walk with them ‘as far as God gives us the strength … if possible, continue to the United States.’
Without any issue, the migrants passed a customs, immigration and military checkpoint where authorities typically seize drugs and look for human smugglers.
Migrants rest in a sports court in Villa Comaltitlan as they take part in a caravan heading to Mexico City
About 2,000 migrants had walked out of the southern city of Tapachula near the Guatemala border on Saturday
‘We haven’t had any problems with immigration officials. God is opening doors for us,’ said a hopeful Julio Gonzalez, a Honduran migrant who spent Tuesday night sleeping near a street in Huixtla with his wife and two children under a steady rain.
Though still significantly smaller than caravans in 2018 and 2019, this is the biggest group moving through southern Mexico since the pandemic started early last year.
In January, a caravan left Honduras, but authorities in Guatemala broke it up.
Other groups that have walked out of Tapachula this year have numbered in the hundreds. All were dissolved by Mexican authorities, sometimes with excessive force.
Those groups were composed mostly of Haitian migrants. This caravan is primarily made up of Central Americans.
Alison, a four-year-old Honduran girl who is sick with fever, holds a lollypop as her father carries her
Though still significantly smaller than caravans in 2018 and 2019, this is the biggest group moving through southern Mexico since the pandemic started early last year
While the multitude is challenging to count, it appeared significantly larger when it left Huixtla (pictured) after a day of rest
The National Guard has not tried to intervene since it attempted to keep the migrants from Tapachula on Saturday. There were scuffles and a child was injured.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Monday the government would act ‘prudently,’ respecting the law and human rights.
Mexico has deployed thousands of soldiers, police and immigration agents in the south and in recent years no large groups have made it out of the states bordering Guatemala.
Even so, entire families keep trying. Cristina Romero wants to make it to the United States to seek treatment for her 12-year-old son who suffers from a developmental delay.
Romero had applied for asylum in Mexico, but after waiting four months the answer came back negative. ‘They told me I could appeal the case, but that it could come out the same,’ she said. ‘Then I heard about this caravan and I was up for coming.’
This caravan is primarily made up of Central Americans and departed from the Mexican municipality of Tapachula
The latest migrant caravan has not yet faced off with Mexican migration agents or soldiers
In Villa Comaltitlan, some migrants told Reuters they sought to rest before departing early Thursday morning, which was especially important due to the large number of young children with them.
The latest migrant caravan has not yet faced off with Mexican migration agents or soldiers who have increasingly used tough tactics to stem the tide of fleeing migrants, many of whom want to escape violent gangs and grinding joblessness back home.
The United States has registered record levels of migration this year, as border agents have apprehended or expelled more than 1.7 million migrants over the past 12 months.
The majority of the latest caravan are families with young children, according to a witness who saw migrants gathered on Tuesday.
Among them was Arleth Chavez from Guatemala, who had walked with the caravan for about 28 miles since it departed the southern border city of Tapachula over the weekend.
The United States has registered record levels of migration this year, as border agents have apprehended or expelled more than 1.7 million migrants
The caravan’s slow movement across Mexico comes as U.S. President Joe Biden has been facing increasing criticism
The majority of the latest caravan are families with young children, according to a witness who saw migrants gathered on Tuesday
‘My feet are burning and in pain from the blisters,’ said Chavez, who nonetheless expressed a determination to continue.
Migrants have denounced the lengthy asylum process in Tapachula, located near Mexico’s border with Guatemala, and thousands have departed the city in a series of caravans this year, including many Haitians.
Mexico’s immigration agency INM said in a statement on Wednesday that some families in the caravan had asked to be returned to Tapachula, but did not provide numbers.
Many members of the caravan aim to reach Mexico City, where they hope the asylum process might be faster, while others say they seek to make it to the United States.
The U.S. government has put pressure on Mexico to contain migrants before reaching the U.S. border, and Mexican authorities have obliged by beefing up patrols.
The caravan’s slow movement across Mexico comes as U.S. President Joe Biden has been facing increasing criticism from Republicans over the high levels of migration, which comes amid widespread violence and growing hunger in Central America and parts of the Caribbean.