A new migrant caravan of about 1,500 people has crossed from Guatemala into Mexico on foot and is heading towards the United States, according to reports.
The caravan includes a large number of Cuban nationals, which is unusual for such migration initiatives, El Universal reported on Monday, March 25. Recent migrant caravans have primarily consisted of people fleeing Latin American countries, not the Caribbean.
Estimates say the caravan could reach the U.S.-Mexico border within several weeks.
The 700 Cuban nationals joined the main body of migrants in southern Mexico over the weekend, a Cuban news outlet reported.
The remaining caravan members are individuals fleeing El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
Mexican Immigration Agency Shutters Doors
Mexico’s National Migration Institute told Reuters the migrants were already inside Mexico when they formed a caravan in the southern city of Tapachula on the border with Guatemala.
The Daily Wire reported that the strategy of entering Mexico as individuals first before later forming a larger group is a way to thwart efforts by the Mexican government to crack down on migrant caravans trying to penetrate the country’s borders.
Early on Saturday, the caravan set off towards the town of Huixtla in the southern state of Chiapas, a route followed by previous groups heading north, the institute said.
— Quadratin Chiapas (@quadratin_chis) March 24, 2019
The Washington Examiner reported that the National Institute of Migration shuttered its office in Chiapas earlier this month, effectively cutting off access to refugee claims for about 2,000 migrants.
Rather than remain in Mexico illegally, many of the migrants instead opted to join the caravan and travel to the U.S. to claim asylum.
Surge in Illegal Crossings
Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security reported a surge in the number of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to an Axios report.
So far in March, officials have reported over 20,000 illegal alien apprehensions.
Officials told Axios the uptick is “driven by an influx of migrant families and unaccompanied children,” mostly from Central America.
Lean Fresco, an immigration attorney and member of a Homeland Security advisory committee, told the news outlet that much of the border has been effectively rendered useless.
“At the moment, we have the closest thing to an open border that we’ve had,” said Fresco, adding, “unless Congress does something, we are where we are on this. There are no levers left to pull.”
President Donald Trump signed a national emergency declaration on Feb. 15, saying the southern border is in crisis.
“If you’re going to have drugs pouring across the border, if you’re going to have human traffickers pouring across the border in areas where we have no protection, in areas where we don’t have a barrier, then it’s very hard to make America great again,” Trump said on Feb. 15.
Trump declared the emergency after Democrats in Congress blocked efforts to approve the $5.7 billion for a border wall requested by the Department of Homeland Security. Congress appropriated $1.4 billion for border wall construction, far short of Trump’s request.
The Department of Defense has now shifted $1 billion to plan and build a 57-mile section of “pedestrian fencing,” roads and lighting along the border between the U.S. and Mexico, the Pentagon chief said on Monday.
Last week, the Pentagon gave Congress a list that included $12.8 billion of construction projects for which it said funds could be redirected for construction along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I’d like to thank all of the Great Republican Senators who bravely voted for Strong Border Security and the WALL,” Trump wrote on Twitter on March 15. “This will help stop Crime, Human Trafficking, and Drugs entering our Country. Watch, when you get back to your State, they will LOVE you more than ever before!”
In addition to shifting $3.6 billion by using the emergency declaration, Trump ordered the reallocation of an additional $3.1 billion from the Treasury and Defense departments, which did not require an emergency declaration.
The Trump administration has tried several methods to stem the flow of illegal immigration, saying that while most asylum claims are bogus, the system is being used as an effective way to gain access to the United States and disappear once inside the country.
Trump tried to prevent asylum-seekers from the caravan of late 2018 from entering the United States illegally by issuing a Nov. 9 proclamation that illegal border-crossers would be ineligible for asylum.
U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar blocked Trump’s proclamation on Nov. 20, and on Dec. 19, the Supreme Court declined to intervene until the case completes its journey through the lower courts.
In May, the administration reintroduced the Bush-era, zero-tolerance policy that meant all adult illegal border crossers were to be prosecuted. The policy caused an uproar when some children were temporarily removed from their parents or adults accompanying them, and Trump walked back the decision.
Trump also urged Congress to close loopholes in the asylum system that allow for thousands of meritless claims to swamp the system.
In June, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions re-tightened the criteria for asylum to what it was pre-Obama, but U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan blocked that ruling on Dec. 19.
Reuters, and Epoch Times staff writers Ivan Pentchoukov and Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report.