TAPACHULA, Mexico – It was only last week that a caravan with thousands of Central American immigrants descended for the night here in Tapachula, in southern Mexico.
The day later a new group numbered in hundreds of fanning
Now two more caravans are on their way.
The first of these caravans were able to move from Honduras to Guatemala and then to Mexico, inspiring other immigrants to travel in large groups, to reverse the long established logic for migrants from Central America to the United States: instead of trying to travel undiscovered some migrants invisible for security in number.
But to a large extent unknown to migrants, this striking new approach has pushed up the warmed immigration signal in the United States and puts potential new obstacles in their way.
As a mid-term near President Trump, trying to push Republican voters by focusing on immigration, a topic that raised its base during its campaign in 2016.
Mr.. Trump has described the first caravan, which left Honduras on October 12 as an invading horde. He sends troops to the border with Mexico and believed that enforcement measures were taken to close the border with immigrants, even those seeking asylum.
Migrants traveling in these caravans are aware that Trump opposes their arrival to the United States, and has heard of the military deployment to the border. But many say they are driven by a deep belief that when they reach the border, Mr. Trump will move and open the gates to them.
Migrant advocates Miroslava Cerpas, from the Center for Human Rights and Promotion in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, warns that they can be separated, deported or injured during the road.
But many immigrants are deeply religious and “think it will be a miracle that some Moses will see” them, Ms Cerpas said. “For these people is this caravan’s caravan,” she said.
Mr. Trump has pressured Central American and Mexican governments to stop migrants from continuing north, creating a political and public dilemma in the region. The embassy leaders in Guatemala and Honduras, both leading governments facing allegations of corruption, tried to appease him and ordered security forces to stop the groups – to little use. The migrants just walked past the officers sent to stop them.
The response of the Mexican Government has been contradictory. Officials seem to be sensitive to the contrast they have to draw with the Trump Administration’s demolition of immigrants, including Mexican immigrants. At the same time, they intend to keep Mexico’s relationship with the United States on solid ground.
The Mexican government urged immigrants to apply for asylum and nearly 2 200 immigrants have accepted the offer, the government said Wednesday.
“Taxed migration is not a criminal act in Mexico,” said Interior Minister Alfonso Navarrete Prida earlier this week. “This is an exposed population.”
Mr. Navarrete warned that immigrants should respect the law and submit their actions to seek refuge. But it was clear that Mexico lacks the ability to control the flow of Central Americans.
Several immigrants who arrived in Tapachula on Tuesday in the new caravan said they had been inspired by the first group’s success, which went through Guatemala and Mexico with relative ease.
The images of this mass migration show the power of traveling together. Young women feel safe to drive their children into donated prams along the highway and families cling to the plates with pickup cars offering tours. On rushing rivers, people form human chains to wander over.
Together, the trip is also cheaper, says rector Mauro Verzeletti, a Catholic priest who heads the Casa del Migrante, a shelter in Guatemala City. By traveling in groups, he said that immigrants can shake off “coyotes structure, drug smuggler or organized crime” who has checked the track for several years and charges thousands of dollars.
The groups have also met with a blowout of support – food, clothing, shelter, healthcare – from governments and ordinary citizens along the way.
After Trump began, the number of illegal crossings on the US southwest border fell to a low of more than 40 years. But the number started to climb again this year. In September, a record number of people traveling in families were arrested by the border police.
However, there is no evidence that caravans encourage more people to leave El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras for the United States, “said immigrants’ advocates. In fact, many of the two caravans now moving through southern Mexico say they would probably have migrated if the caravan had taken shape.
What the big group is doing is giving “visibility to a phenomenon that had been going on for a long time and nobody wanted to see,” said César Ríos, head of Salvador’s Migration Institute in San Salvador, working with deportees.
When the first of the current caravan trailers left San Pedro Sula in Honduras on October 12, only a few hundred were strong. When television news spreads the word, thousands of more immigrants went to the procession when it crossed the border with Guatemala and headed for Mexico.
Migrants collapsed briefly with Guatemalan and Mexican security forces on October 19 at Suchiate River, which delimits a distance of the border between the countries. However, most of the members crossed Mexico because the efforts to stop the caravan’s advance made room for their size, estimated at around 7000.
The group, most of Central America, exploded after crossing into Mexico. Some people moved at a faster pace while others fell behind to convert, apply for asylum in Mexico – or return home.
Still, the core group, which was in the city of Juchitán in southern Mexico on Wednesday, was numbers in the thousand.
The unrestrained progress of the caravan north has resounded deeply in the poor countries of Central America, hundreds of thousands of people fled in recent years to avoid violence and political oppression, as well as poverty worsened by drought and crops.
About two weeks ago, a follow-up car was formed in central Honduras, Comayagua. When it left, it numbered about 350, several immigrants said. When it crossed the border with Guatemala, it had grown to about 1500.
Summoned the security forces and continued north, several said. Even more immigrants joined the group when they moved across Guatemala. One of them was Marvin Tol, 35, who is from Guatemala City Escuintla.
“My country is very bad,” Tol said.
He said he had thought of trying to migrate to the United Kingdom States seeking work. But the news about the suitable caravan – and the past success at cross-border borders – inspired him to accelerate the departure.
“I was going to go, but I went to the caravan instead,” said Tol in Tapachula on Tuesday.
A third caravan left San Salvador on Sunday and is expected to reach Mexico’s southern border soon. A fourth formed in Honduras’s department Olancho and travels through Guatemala now, Ms Cerpas said, immigrant advocate in Honduras.
The Mexican government blocked the first caravan at the legal crossing on its southern border, but thousands of participants did it illegally, which dissatisfied Mr. Trump .
When the other caravan arrived on southern Mexico’s southern boundary on Sunday, the migrants again met a police show.
A fight broke out after a Mexican police had insulted the migrants’ Honduras flag, said Sergio Seis, migration officer for the government in Ciudad Hidalgo, located at the border.
Migrants threw bottles and stones before the police drove them back with gas tears, the witnesses said. An immigrant was killed.
But on Monday, the caravan members formed a human chain and waded over Suchiate. Mexican marines look from slate but do not intervene, boatmen and carriers who work that stretch of the river said.
“It was beautiful and it was sad at the same time, because the children came and women were coming,” said Juan Carbajal Díaz, a concierge who looked at the intersection.
A Mexican federal police helicopter hovering close to the group for at least 10 minutes, whose knives whip the water in a notch.
Under the rotors, Delmis Aracely Macedo, 30, traveled with Gálvez, the Honduran farm worker, who is her boyfriend. Fear she could drink, she started crying, she reminded.
Then the authorities seemed reluctant. Most immigrants encrypted Mexico, and their illegal entry was clearly ignored.
In Mexico, the first caravan has been met by an ejection of support. But even immigrants were aware that other caravans that followed their way might not be met with the same welcome.
The wagon is like a guest, said Gálvez, laughing: “The first day he smells – and the third day stinks.”