Ragged, growing caravan of migrants resumes march toward US

By MARK STEVENSON

TAPACHULA, Mexico (AP) — A growing caravan of Honduran
migrants streamed through southern Mexico on Sunday heading toward
the United States, after making an end-run around Mexican agents
who briefly blocked them at the Guatemalan border.

They received help at every turn from sympathetic Mexicans who
offered food, water and clothing. Hundreds of locals driving
pickups, vans and cargo trucks stopped to let them clamber
aboard.

Besi Jaqueline Lopez of the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula
carried a stuffed polar bear in a winter cap that seemed out of
place in the tropical heat. It’s the favorite — and only —
toy of her two daughters, 4-year-old Victoria and 3-year-old
Elisabeth, who trudged beside her gleaming with sweat.

A business administration graduate, Lopez said she couldn’t
find work back home and hopes to reach the United States, but would
stay in Mexico if she could find employment here.

“My goal is to find work for a better future for my
daughters,” she said.

In dozens of interviews along the journey, they have said they
are fleeing widespread violence, poverty and corruption in
Honduras. The caravan is unlike previous mass migrations for its
unprecedented large numbers, and because it largely began
spontaneously through word of mouth.

Guatemala’s migration agency confirmed that another group of
about 1,000 migrants crossed into the country from Honduras on
Sunday.

After praising Mexico for its no-nonsense response when police
at a southern border bridge pushed the migrants back with riot
shields and pepper spray, President Donald Trump again hammered
Democratic Party opponents over what he apparently sees as a
winning issue for Republicans a little over two weeks ahead of
midterm elections.

After blaming the Democrats for “weak laws” on immigration a
few days earlier, Trump said via Twitter: “The Caravans are a
disgrace to the Democrat party. Change the immigration laws
NOW!”

“Full efforts are being made to stop the onslaught of illegal
aliens from crossing our Souther (sic) Border,” he said in
another tweet. “People have to apply for asylum in Mexico first,
and if they fail to do that, the U.S. will turn them away. The
courts are asking the U.S. to do things that are not doable!”

Hundreds of migrants from the caravan did just that — applied
for refugee status in Mexico in the southern city of Ciudad
Hidalgo. By Sunday evening, the Interior department reported that
it had received more than 1,000 requests.

But a far bigger group forded the Suchiate River from Guatemala
to the Mexican side individually and dozens at a time, and resumed
the trek at first light, marching 10 abreast on the highway.

“Si se pudo!” they chanted in Spanish — “Yes, we
did!”

The throng grew even larger than when the migrants arrived at
the border bridge, swelling overnight to 5,000.

It was not immediately clear where the additional travelers came
from since about 2,000 had been gathered on the Mexican side
Saturday night. But people have been joining and leaving the
caravan daily, some moving at their own pace and strung out in a
series of columns.

Their destination Sunday was the city of Tapachula in Chiapas
state. Under a blazing sun, small groups of 20 to 30 paused to rest
in the shade of trees on the side of the road, and by afternoon the
caravan had evolved into long lines of walkers straggling for
miles.

Jesus Valdivia, of Tuxtla Chico, Mexico, was one of the many who
pulled his pickup truck over to let 10 or even 20 migrants hop in
at a time, sometimes causing vehicles’ springs to groan under the
weight.

“You have to help the next person. Today it’s for them,
tomorrow for us,” Valdivia said, adding that he was getting a
valuable gift from those he helped: “From them we learn to value
what they do not have.”

Passing freight trucks were quickly boarded by dozens of
migrants, and straining tuk-tuks carried as many as a
half-dozen.

Brenda Sanchez of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, who rode in
Valdivia’s truck with three nephews ages 10, 11 and 19, expressed
gratitude to “God and the Mexicans who have helped us.”

She even had kind words for Mexican police: “We are very
grateful to them because even though they closed the doors to us
(at the border), they are coming behind us taking care of
us.”

Federal police monitored the caravan’s progress from a
helicopter and had a few units escorting it. Outside Tapachula,
about 500 black-uniformed officers briefly gathered along the
highway on buses and in patrol units, but they said their orders
were to maintain traffic and not to stop the caravan. They moved on
toward the city before the caravan reached them.

As the migrants passed through villages on the outskirts of
Ciudad Hidalgo, locals applauded, shouted encouragement and donated
supplies.

Maria Teresa Orellana, a resident of Lorenzo, handed out
sandals. “It’s solidarity,” she said. “They’re our
brothers.”

Mexico’s Interior Department said in a statement that federal
and Chiapas state authorities were providing assistance to
migrants, including legal counseling for those who applied for
asylum. It released a video showing workers doling out food,
medicine and medical treatment.

In comments to reporters after a rally in Elko, Nevada, on
Saturday night, Trump said of Mexico’s response: “I just want
to say, on behalf of the American public, that we appreciate what
Mexico is doing. They’ve really stepped up, and it will not be
forgotten.”

Trump also repeated: “I will seal off the border before (the
migrants) come into this country, and I’ll bring out our
military, not our reserves.”

Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he was
suggesting to Trump that the United States, Canada and Mexico seek
an agreement to invest in development in Central America and
southern Mexico, which is home to many of that country’s
poor.

“In this way we confront the phenomenon of migration, because
he who leaves his town does not leave for pleasure but out of
necessity,” said Lopez Obrador, who takes office Dec. 1.

Mexican authorities had refused to allow the caravan mass entry
from Guatemala, instead accepting small groups to process asylum
requests and handing out some 45-day visitor permits. An estimated
1,500 were still on the Guatemalan side of the Suchiate, hoping to
enter legally.

But police could do little if anything in the face of the
throngs who avoided the official entry point and crossed the
notoriously porous border elsewhere.

Migrants marching north Sunday said they gave up on Mexico
because the application process was too slow, and most wanted to
continue to the United States anyway.

Related Articles

“We’re warriors, we got to get to the place we got to get to.
We’re gonna keep on going and we’re not gonna stop,” Luis
Puerto, 39, of Colon, Honduras, said in English.

For Puerto, that place is North Carolina, where he has a wife
and two daughters. He said he was recently deported from the United
States after a brush with the law that he did not specify.

“We are going to get to the border of the U.S.,” he said.
“I am not going to stop. I don’t care if I die.”

Associated Press writers Sonia Perez D. in Tecun Uman,
Guatemala, and Peter Orsi in Mexico City contributed to this
report.

Source: FS – All – Interesting – News 2
Ragged, growing caravan of migrants resumes march toward US