New migrant caravan begins in southern Mexico
Mexico City — As Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador opened talks on immigration and other issues with his North American counterparts in Washington, a new migrant caravan left the southern Mexican city of Tapachula Thursday morning.
The new batch of immigrants heading north was a fresh reminder of the urgent need to tackle immigration in the region, which López Obrador hopes to convey in his meeting with President Joe Biden.
About 2,000 migrants, mostly from Central America and Haiti, make up the latest attempted caravan.
Alex Leyva of Honduras said he was trying to travel north by caravan for the second time. The first time he left with another convoy on October 23, but fell ill and had to drop out of school. Mexican immigration agents brought him back to Tapachula where he had already begun the process of seeking asylum in Mexico.
“My country is in the worst economic situation, crime and hunger,” Leyva said. There are no studies and no education for children. That’s why my wife and I decided to try to achieve our goal of having a better life.
The previous caravan that Leva traveled in was in the southern state of Veracruz, but it dwindled to several hundred immigrants, from a high point at about 4,000 immigrants.
Luis García Villagran, of the Center for Human Dignity, said immigrants are asking for documents allowing them to be present in all of Mexico. The Mexican government has relied on a strategy to contain immigrants in the far south of the country to ease pressure on the US border.
But those states are the poorest and there are much more opportunities to find work in the northern states.
García Villagran said that even migrants on humanitarian visas allowing them to travel to Mexico were detained by immigration agents and returned to Tapachula.
Migrants held in Tapachula, near the border with Guatemala, are becoming increasingly frustrated with the slow processing of their asylum cases. They complain that they are unable to find work that would allow them to support their families.
Caravans began several years ago as a way for immigrants who did not have money to pay smugglers to take advantage of the safety in numbers as they moved toward the US border. However, in recent times Guatemala and Mexico have become more aggressive in quickly dissolving convoys with security forces.
The dwindling caravan in Veracruz has been the first so far to advance into Mexico in the past two years, but the trek’s harsh conditions and government offers to settle the immigration status have led to the majority withdrawing.
Lopez Obrador set addressing immigration in the region as one of his priorities at the North American Leaders Summit on Thursday. He lobbied the Biden administration to invest in expanding a tree-planting program that pays farmers to plant certain types of trees on their land. He says the money allows the rural poor to stay on their land rather than feel the economic pressure of migration.
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