Migrant Caravan Swells to 5,000, Resumes March Toward US

Efforts by Mexican authorities to stop the caravan at border with Guatemala failed
October 21, 2018 Updated: October 22, 2018

Thousands of Central American migrants resumed their march toward the United States on Oct. 21, after efforts by Mexican officials failed to halt the advance at the Guatemala–Mexico border.

The numbers jumped to about 5,000 over the weekend, according to The Associated Press, as the throng set off for the Mexican town of Tapachula in a line stretching about a mile.

It isn’t clear where the other people came from, since only about 2,000 were gathered on the Mexican side by the night of Oct. 21, the AP said.

The caravan members marched through Mexico and yelled slogans such as “Si se pudo!”—“We did it!”

Gerardo Hernandez, head of the local Mexican government’s emergency services, confirmed to Reuters that more than 5,100 migrants were registered in three shelters in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Hidalgo.

migrants jump off bridge
Migrants tired of waiting to cross into Mexico, jumped from a border bridge into the Suchiate River, in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, Oct. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Oliver de Ros)

“It’s really full. You can’t even walk, there’s just so many people,” he said of the migrants. “So far, they’re all peaceful, thank God.”

However, according to Fox News, Mexican officials say between 5,100 and 7,200 migrants registered to stay in the shelters, and another 2,000 chose to camp in the town square. That means the number of migrants in the caravan could be as high as 10,000.

Mexico’s federal government said Oct. 20 that nearly “900 migrants” arrived in the country via unauthorized means. Earlier on Oct. 20, the presidents of Honduras and Guatemala said around 2,500 migrants were repatriated to their respective countries.

“We are working to provide a peaceful and safe return trip, and keep these movements from happening in the future,” said Guatemala President Jimmy Morales.

The spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Chris McGrath, told Fox that his agency “deployed teams to the Mexican border with Guatemala, where they are working closely with Mexican officials … so all individuals can be processed and provided with essential services, including access to health services, food, and shelter.”

Clashes With Police

Olivin Castellanos, 58, said he took a raft across the river separating Guatemala and Mexico, saying, “We knocked down the door and we continue walking.” He said he wants to go to the United States to work.

Two days ago, the caravan attempted to force its way into Mexico from Guatemala, but that was mostly blocked by federal police officers and people were forced to sleep on a bridge that links the two countries.

“In Mexico, we have the rule of law, and we shall apply—enforce the law, but there will also be a humanitarian way that we will think about the migrant in the first place,” said Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray to reporters in Mexico City. He noted that Mexico has asked the United Nations to get involved.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Oct. 20, that a safe solution is being figured out.

At the same time, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández and Morales held an emergency meeting at a Guatemalan airbase on Oct. 20.

“The Mexican government is fully engaged in finding a solution that encourages safe, secure, and orderly migration,” Nauert said. “And both the United States and Mexico continue to work with Central American governments to address the economic, security, and governance drivers of illegal immigration.”

Trump Responds

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, who has issued warnings about the caravan reaching the U.S. border, urged changes to immigration laws in a series of Twitter posts on Oct. 21.

“Full efforts are being made to stop the onslaught of illegal aliens from crossing our Souther [sic] Border. 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!” he wrote.

“The Caravans are a disgrace to the Democrat Party. Change the immigration laws NOW!” he said in a subsequent post.

Earlier, when speaking to reporters on Oct. 20. before his departure in Nevada, Trump questioned the origins of the caravan, without getting into specifics.

“If you want to know the truth; I think some bad people started that caravan. … You have some very tough criminal elements within the caravan,” he said.

Trump told reporters that he would seal off the border and call in the U.S. military if the caravan continues to advance. He also lamented what he called the Democrats’ obstruction tactics, saying they’ve made it difficult for an agreement to be reached.

“All of the Democrats that have made it impossible—they’ve obstructed and they’ve resisted—they’ve made it impossible to do anything because the immigration laws are so bad,” Trump told reporters.

“I could sit down with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, and, in one hour, I could have an agreement done that would solve all of the things that you’re watching. … But they don’t want to, but I think now they do, because I think it’s a terrible political point for Democrats.”

Bowen Xiao contributed to this report.