More than 3,000 people have assembled at Tecun Uman -- a small border town at the line dividing Guatemala from Mexico -- who plan to continue their way north to the United States. President Trump has called on the presidents of Central America to stop the so-called caravan of migrants and has threatened to cut off foreign aid if they do not comply. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to make an official visit to Mexico to discuss the crisis. In Guatemala, the country’s First Lady Patricia Marroquin de Morales issues a video plea to her countrymen asking them to think twice about making the risky trip north. “As parents, we have the grave responsibility of educating our children and ensuring safety because they represent the future of Central America.” She continued, saying “The conditions for this long trek are dangerous for migrants, but especially for our children who regretfully suffer torment at an early age and sometimes lose their lives.”

The so-called caravan of migrants started on October 13 in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and quickly swelled to over 3000. Guatemalan police failed to stop the march as it crossed over the border, despite using tear gas and batons. Charitable Guatemalans provided food, water and shelter to the migrants while they traversed Guatemalan territory and headed to Mexico.

On Thursday, some of the mostly Honduran migrants managed to cross the swiftly moving Suchiate River to Ciudad Hidalgo in neighboring Mexico. Some stormed over fences separating Mexico and Guatemala. Others waited while they were given food and shelter by churches and local volunteers. A large police contingent awaited them, having been deployed from central Mexico in two 727 jets. As many as 500 armed officers were sent south to the border region on Thursday. Police in riot gear were seen in Tapachula, a city just miles away in Mexico, where they were getting reading with barriers and other measures to stem the tide. Amateur video showed the Mexican police were arresting migrants who crossed from Guatemala. However, the thousands of migrants overwhelmed Mexican authorities as they crossed the bridge connecting the two countries. Mexican police eventually asked the migrants to cooperate and go to processing centers.

President Trump heralded Mexico’s apparent commitment to containing this most recent wave of migrants, which comes just three weeks before the mid-term elections in the United States. The president tweeted on Thursday, “Thank you Mexico. We look forward to working with you!” Hedging his bets, Trump has also threatened to militarize the nation’s southern border.

In Ciudad Hidalgo, the migrants are being met by personnel from Mexico’s ministry of foreign relations and its immigration agency, as well as non-government human rights advocates. Those migrants who have already crossed are being processed by Mexican government personnel. According local reports, Gina Garibo -- who represents Pueblos Sin Fronteras -- is observing closely to detect any violations of human rights by Mexican authorities. Pueblos Sin Fronteras is an organization based in the U.S. that has organized migrant caravans in the past and is critical of President Trump’s immigration policies.

Mexican authorities arrested Irineo Mujica, a Mexican human rights advocate, during a demonstration in Ciudad Hidalgo. According to Mexico’s immigration agency, Mugica assaulted its personnel as well as federal and state police when he was ordered to present his I.D. 

According to the Mexican government, only those migrants who have a visa will be allowed to enter its territory. Those desiring refugee status will be taken to a “migratory station” and held for 45 days for processing, in must the same way that asylum applicants are treated by the U.S. Those migrants who cross the border illegally will be “rescued and subject to an administrative procedure and, where appropriate, will be returned to their country of origin in a safe and orderly manner.”

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray met UN Secretary General António Guterres in Washington, where he petitioned the international body for help in responding to the migrants entering Mexico. On Thursday, Videgaray said that the migrants are “literally risking their lives for a better future.” Mexican authorities are contending with the ingress of Honduran nationals at Ciudad Hidalgo, but also at other border towns in Guatemala and Belize. In addition, Guatemala has detected more Honduras entering its territory by other routes. Videgaray guaranteed that persons entering the country will be given “humane treatment because Mexico is a country that does not shut its borders. What is important is that they enter legally.”

Mexico has begun receiving asylum petitions from some of the migrants, in which the UN will assist. 

According to Karla Cuevas, the Minister of Human Rights of Honduras, declared on Thursday that at least 200 of her countrymen have voluntarily decided to return home. They are being given assistance and will be returned to their point of origin. Having decided to halt their trek north, they are returning to Honduras through the Agua Caliente port of entry. The government of Honduras has also detained 54 unaccompanied minors who tried to leave the country and head for the U.S. According to Lolis Salas of the Agency for Childhood, Adolescence and the Family, the minors were ages 12 to 17. Of these, 21 were returned to their families, while the remainder continue under the protection of the government.
 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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