Migrant caravan sets out in southern Mexico

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TAPACHULA, Mexico — Several thousand migrants set out walking in the rain early Monday in southern Mexico, tired of waiting to normalize their status in a region with little work and still far from their ultimate goal of reaching the United States.

Their advocates said they wanted to call attention to their plight, timing it with this week’s Summit of the America’s in Los Angeles. It was estimated to include 4,000 to 5,000 migrants, mostly from Central America, Venezuela and Cuba.

It is the largest migrant caravan to attempt to leave southern Mexico this year, though a much larger group was stopped last year in Guatemala. The Mexican authorities eventually broke up the other migrant caravans using a combination of force and offering to resolve cases more rapidly.

Many carried children in their arms, on their backs, using sheets of plastic or blankets to shield them from the persistent rain. They walked from the southern city of Tapachula to a town about 10 miles (15 kilometers) away before stopping to rest for the night.

For months, migrants and asylum seekers have complained that Mexico’s strategy of containing them in the southernmost reaches of the country has made their lives miserable. There are very few jobs in Mexico’s southern regions and many migrants have significant debts from their migration.

The migrants complain that delays in paperwork on visa requests have trapped them in Tapachula, a city near the Guatemalan border. A group of migrants attempted to flee Tapachula’s detention facility by climbing on top of one of its roofs. Police and the National Guard closed in on the facility and stopped any escape attempts.

Mexico’s asylum agency has been overwhelmed by the surging number of applicants. Due to restrictive policies, Mexico’s asylum agency has been overwhelmed by the increasing number of applicants.

The caravan departed just hours before Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced that he would not be attending the Summit of the Americas because the Biden administration did not invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua to participate.

Luis Garcia Villagran, an activist accompanying the migrants in Tapachula, said they wanted to send a message to the region’s leaders that “the migrant women and children, the migrant families are not bargaining chips for ideological and political interests.”

Venezuelan migrant Ruben Medina said he and 12 members of his family found themselves in southern Mexico because of his country’s president Nicolas Maduro.

“(We have) been waiting about two months for the visa and still nothing, so better to start walking in this march,” Medina said.

“They gave us an appointment for August 10 in (the asylum commission), and we don’t have the money to wait,” said Joselyn Ponce of Nicaragua. “We had to walk around hiding from immigration, there were raids, because if they catch us they will lock us up.”

The phenomenon of migrant caravans took off in 2018. Although smaller caravans had been traveling through Mexico in an attempt to raise awareness about the plight of migrants, they did not have the goal of reaching America. border.

But then several thousand migrants began walking together, betting on safety in numbers and a greater likelihood that government officials would not try to stop them. Although it worked initially, the Guatemalan government and Mexican governments are now more determined to disband the caravans so they don’t gain momentum.

An October 2021 caravan grew to about 4,000 migrants before it diminished in southern Mexico. An even bigger caravan was destroyed by Guatemalan authorities in January 2015.

While the caravans have garnered media attention, the migrants traveling in them represent a tiny fraction of the migratory flow that carries people to the U.S. border every day, usually with the help of smugglers.

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