A big caravan of Central American migrants that has stirred concerns in the U.S. and drawn tweets from President Donald Trump has been halted for days at a sports field in southern Mexico where the Mexican government began handing out transit or humanitarian visas.
The caravan, that once numbered 1,150 or more people, halted in the town of Matias Romero in the southern state of Oaxaca after days of walking along roadsides and train tracks. Organizers now plan to try to get buses to take participants to the final event: an immigrants' rights conference in the central state of Puebla later this week.
Bogged down by logistical problems, large numbers of children and fears about people getting sick, the caravan was always meant to draw attention to the plight of migrants and was never equipped to march all the way to the U.S. border.
The "Stations of the Cross" caravans have been held annually in southern Mexico for about 10 years. They began as short processions of migrants, some dressed in biblical garb and carrying crosses, as an Easter-season protest against the kidnappings, extortion, beatings and killings suffered by many Central American migrants as they cross Mexico.
This year's event seems to have gotten more notice in the U.S., and Trump has sent some angry tweets that raised hackles in Mexico, which in recent years has detained and deported hundreds of thousands of Central American migrants before they could reach the U.S. border.
"Mexico is doing very little, if not NOTHING, at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their Southern Border, and then into the U.S. They laugh at our dumb immigration laws. They must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. NEED WALL!" Trump wrote in one. "With all of the money they make from the U.S., hopefully they will stop people from coming through their country and into ours."
Mexico routinely stops and deports Central Americans, sometimes in numbers that rival those of the United States. Deportations dropped from in 2017, in part because fewer were believed to have come to Mexico, and more were requesting asylum in Mexico. Mexico granted 3,223 asylum requests made in 2016.
Aida Raquel Perez Rivera, 31, from San Pedro Sula — one of Honduras' most violent cities — said she hopes for asylum in the United States because the father of her daughters is trying to kill her.
"I have been threatened with death and I had to leave my daughters back there," said Perez Rivera. "I left without money, without anything, just the clothes on my back."
Text from AP news story, Mexico starts giving caravan migrants transit visas, by Christopher Sherman.
Photos by Felix Marquez