U.S. lays barbed wire at border as migrant caravan draws closer

U.S. Marines work to move building materials as they harden the border with Mexico in preparation for the arrival of a caravan of migrants at the San Ysidro border crossing in San Diego, California, U.S., November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Lizbeth Diaz

TIJUANA (Reuters) – Hundreds of Central American migrants planning to seek asylum in the United States moved toward the country’s border with Mexico on Tuesday as U.S. military reinforced security measures, laying barbed wire and erecting barricades.

Some 400 migrants who broke away from the main caravan in Mexico City arrived in the border city of Tijuana on Tuesday by bus, according to a Reuters witness. Larger groups are expected to arrive in the coming days, human rights organizations said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he would travel to the border area on Wednesday, his first visit since the military announced that over 7,000 U.S. troops would go to the area as the caravan of mostly Hondurans has made its way through Mexico.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a statement that it would close lanes at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa crossings from Tijuana to allow the Department of Defense to install barbed wire and position barricades and fencing. Tijuana, in the Mexican state of Baja California, is at the westerly end of the border, around 17 miles (38km) from San Diego, California.

“CBP has been and will continue to prepare for the potential arrival of thousands of people migrating in a caravan heading toward the border of the United States,” Pete Flores, the agency’s director of field operations in San Diego, said in a statement, citing a “potential safety and security risk.”

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has taken a firm stance against the caravan, which began its journey north on Oct. 13 and briefly clashed with security forces in the south of Mexico early on its route.

On Friday, Trump signed a decree that effectively suspended the granting of asylum for those who cross the border illegally, a move that could drastically slow claims at gates of entry.

But migrants planning to seek asylum in the United States said they were undeterred by the crackdown.

“I prefer to be in detention in the United States than to return to my country, where I know they are going to kill me for being different,” said Nelvin Mejía, a transgender woman who arrived in Tijuana on Monday with a group of about 70 people seeking asylum. “Last month, they killed my partner, and I do not want to end up like that.”

For years, thousands of mainly Central American immigrants have embarked on long journeys through Central America and Mexico to reach the United States. Many of them die in the attempt or are kidnapped by organized crime groups.

Several thousand more migrants in at least three caravan groups are making their way through Mexico toward the border.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; writing by Julia Love, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Central American migrants resume their march toward U.S. border

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, make their way to Queretaro from Mexico City, Mexico, November 10, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

By Hannah McKay

QUERETARO, Mexico (Reuters) – Hundreds of Central American migrants resumed their march north through Mexico on Saturday, en route to the U.S. border where President Donald Trump has effectively suspended the granting of asylum to migrants who cross illegally.

Trump’s Friday order, which went into effect on Saturday, means that migrants will have to present themselves at U.S. ports of entry to qualify for asylum and follow other rules unveiled on Thursday that seek to limit asylum claims.

“It doesn’t matter what rules (Trump’s) government imposes we cannot go back to our countries. I have a bullet in my arm and another in my shoulder. If I go back home, it’d be better for me to go with a casket,” said 30-year-old Julio Caesar from Honduras, who declined to give his last name.

The caravan, made up mostly of Hondurans, started north again on Saturday morning following a rest of four days in Mexico City.

They carried backpacks, blankets, food, many with children in tow, and took the metro and then walked to the town of Tepotzotlan. There they were helped onto buses and trucks by authorities, who stopped traffic to ask motorists if they would take the migrants to the city of Queretaro, where a shelter was set up at a stadium.

Some of the migrants are set to arrive at the border city of Tijuana on Monday, while others later in the week to Reynosa and other border towns, according to migrant shelters.

“These (U.S.) policies leave migrants even more vulnerable because they will be stranded in northern Mexico, with human traffickers lurking because the Mexican government does not have the capacity to help them,” said Oscar Misael Hernandez, researcher at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte.

Trump made his hard-line policies toward immigration a key issue ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections. He has vowed to deploy troops at the border to stop a caravan of migrants, who say they want to seek asylum in the United States, citing violence in their own countries.

(Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

First wave of Central American migrants arrives in Mexico City

Migrants, part of a caravan traveling en route to the United States, queue to receive food as they stay in a sport center used as shelter in Arriaga, Mexico November 4, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The first Central American migrants from a caravan traveling through Mexico toward the United States in hopes of seeking asylum arrived in Mexico City on Sunday, taking up temporary shelter at a sports stadium.

More than 1,000 Central Americans, many fleeing gang violence and financial hardship in their home countries, bedded down at the stadium where the city government set up medical aid and food kitchens.

Ahead of U.S. congressional elections this Tuesday, President Donald Trump has warned repeatedly about the advance of the caravan and ordered thousands of troops to the Mexican border, where units strung up razor wire this weekend.

The migrants arrived in the capital, nearly 500 miles (805 kilometers) from the closest border crossings in Texas, four weeks after setting out from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula.

“Our heads are set at getting to the United States, to fulfill the American dream,” said Mauricio Mancilla, who traveled with his six-year old son from San Pedro Sula. “We have faith in God that we will do this, whatever the circumstances.”

Thousands more Central Americans were moving in groups in the Gulf state of Veracruz, the central state of Puebla and in the southern state of Chiapas, local media reported.

“This is an exodus,” Alejandro Solalinde, a Catholic priest and migrant rights activist, told reporters. “It’s without precedent.”

The U.S. government has pressured Mexico to halt the advance of the migrants and President Enrique Pena Nieto has offered temporary identification papers and jobs if they register for asylum in the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca.

Mexico’s government said on Saturday it was processing nearly 2,800 asylum requests and that around 1,100 Central Americans had been deported.

At the capital’s famed shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe, a group of Mexican volunteers called out on bullhorns, offering bus rides to migrants to the stadium.

Cesar Gomez, a 20-year old Guatemalan, said he jumped at joining the caravan to avoid the dangers of traveling alone and paying thousands of dollars to human smugglers.

“This was a good opportunity,” he said as he waited for a ride. “The first thing is to try for the United States. If not, maybe I will stay here.”

(Reporting by Josue Gonzalez, Stefanie Eschenbacher and Alberto Fajardo; Editing by Susan Thomas)

New migrant caravan departs Salvadoran capital for U.S.

People walk in a caravan of migrants departing from El Salvador en route to the United States, in San Salvador, El Salvador, October 31, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

By Nelson Renteria

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – About 2,000 migrants began walking north from El Salvador’s capital on Wednesday, the latest of several groups trying to reach the United States, even as President Donald Trump increases pressure to halt the flow of people.

The migrants departed in two groups, including men and women pushing strollers and others with children on their shoulders. On Sunday, a separate group comprising about 300 people set off for the U.S. border from the Salvadoran capital.

People walk in a caravan of migrants departing from El Salvador en route to the United States, in San Salvador, El Salvador, October 31, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

People walk in a caravan of migrants departing from El Salvador en route to the United States, in San Salvador, El Salvador, October 31, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

A caravan estimated to number at least 3,500 people, which left Honduras in mid-October and is now in southern Mexico, has become a major issue in U.S. congressional elections on Nov. 6.

The bulk of migrants caught trying to enter the United States illegally via Mexico come from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Many make the dangerous journey north to escape high levels of poverty and violence in their homelands.

The United States is in the process of sending 5,200 troops to its southern border as part of Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration. The prospect has so far not discouraged people from leaving El Salvador.

“It scares us a little. But since we’re seeing a ton of people going together, we can help one another to cross,” said Jose Machado, one of the migrants departing San Salvador, carrying a backpack stuffed with clothing and toiletries.

Trump, who has threatened to slash U.S. aid to Central America and close the U.S. border with Mexico, said in a tweet on Wednesday that Mexico needs to keep up efforts to discourage the migrants, who he described as “tough fighters.”

A clash at the Mexico-Guatemala border on Sunday left one migrant dead and several law enforcement officers injured.

“Mexican soldiers hurt, were unable, or unwilling to stop Caravan. Should stop them before they reach our Border, but won’t!” Trump said in a Tweet.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Wednesday praised Mexico’s actions to slow the movement of people, but told Fox News: “They can do more.”

Police estimated the two groups leaving San Salvador numbered around 1,000 each. One cohort left around dawn, followed by a second later in the morning.

Some waved Salvadoran flags as motorists honked in support and shouted, “God bless you.”

(Reporting By Nelson Renteria, Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington, Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Dave Graham and Alistair Bell)

Trump sends 5,200 troops to Mexico border as caravan advances

Central American migrants walk through the Suchiate river, the natural border between Guatemala and Mexico, in their bid to reach the U.S., as seen from Tecun Uman, Guatemala October 29, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

By Phil Stewart and Yeganeh Torbati

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Monday it will send over 5,200 troops to help secure the border with Mexico, a far larger-than-expected deployment as President Donald Trump hardens his stance on immigration ahead of Nov. 6 mid-term elections.

The deployment will create an active-duty force comparable in size to the U.S. military contingent in Iraq, as Trump’s administration draws attention to a caravan of migrants that is trekking through Mexico toward the United States.

U.S Custom and Border Protection agents take part in a drill to protect the crossing gates against people who want to cross the border illegally on the international bridge between Mexico and the U.S., in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico October 29, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

U.S Custom and Border Protection agents take part in a drill to protect the crossing gates against people who want to cross the border illegally on the international bridge between Mexico and the U.S., in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico October 29, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the head of U.S. Northern Command, said 800 U.S. troops were already en route to the Texas border and more were headed to the borders in California and Arizona.

“The president has made it clear that border security is national security,” O’Shaughnessy said, as he detailed a much larger deployment that the 800 to 1,000 troops predicted by U.S. officials last week.

O’Shaughnessy said some soldiers would be armed although it was unclear who, beyond U.S. military police, might need those weapons. U.S. officials have stressed that the troops would not police the border and instead carry out support roles like building tents and barricades, and flying U.S. customs personnel to locations along the border.

Trump railed against illegal immigration to win the 2016 U.S. presidential election and has seized on the caravan of Central American migrants at campaign rallies in the run-up to next week’s vote, firing up support for his Republican Party.

Trump said the United States would build “tent cities” to house migrants seeking asylum, rather than releasing them while they await court decisions.

“We’re going to put tents up all over the place. We’re not going to build structures and spend all of this, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars – we’re going to have tents,” he told Fox News in an interview.

Trump said detaining asylum seekers while their cases are being decided would discourage others from following suit.

ARMED SOLDIERS

If the Republicans lose control of the House of Representatives or the Senate, it could become much harder for Trump to pursue his policy agenda in his remaining two years in office.

According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in late September and early October, 75 percent of Republican voters said illegal immigration is a very big problem, compared with 19 percent of Democratic voters.

Although Trump’s supporters in Congress praised the deployment of troops, the American Civil Liberties Union derided it as a political stunt.

“President Trump has chosen just before midterm elections to force the military into furthering his anti-immigrant agenda of fear and division,” said Shaw Drake, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union Border Rights Center in El Paso, Texas.

Trump said on Twitter on Monday that the military would be waiting for the procession — suggesting a far more direct role in confronting the migrants than the Pentagon described.

“Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border,” Trump tweeted.

“Please go back, you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process. This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!” he added.

Trump administration officials have been discussing other options to address the caravan and a surge in border crossings, including having Trump use his authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act to declare certain migrants ineligible for asylum for national security reasons.

Officials said no decisions had been made.

Kevin McAleenan, the U.S. commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said a group of approximately 3,500 immigrants were traveling through southern Mexico with the intent of reaching the U.S. border. A second caravan of about 3,000 people were at the Guatemala-Mexico border, McAleenan said.

At the same time, over the last three weeks, border agents have encountered nearly 1,900 people per day either crossing the border illegally or presenting themselves at ports of entry, with over half of them being children alone or parents and children traveling together, McAleenan said.

“We are already facing a border security and humanitarian crisis at our southwest border,” he said.

Some migrants have abandoned the journey, deterred by the hardships or the possibility instead of making a new life in Mexico. Others joined it in southern Mexico.

Trump’s decision to call in the military appears to be a departure from past practice, at least in recent years, in which such operations were carried out by National Guard forces — largely part-time military members who are often called upon to serve in response to domestic emergencies.

There are already 2,100 U.S. National Guard forces at the border, sent after a previous Trump request in April. The latest deployment would be in addition to those forces.

The decision to send active duty forces this time gives the Pentagon the ability to more rapidly mobilize greater capability than would be immediately available with the Guard, officials told Reuters.

But it also injects the military, which prides itself in being non-partisan, into a highly charged political issue just days ahead of an election.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart, Yeganeh Torbati; Additional reporting by Idrees Ali, Eric Beech, Mohammad Zargham, Steve Holland and David Alexander; Editing by Leslie Adler and Lisa Shumaker)

Trump may send U.S. troops to Mexico border, but migrants undeterred

Jose Garcia, a migrant from Honduras en route to the United States, rests in a public square as he waits to regroup with more migrants, in Tecun Uman, Guatemala October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

By Phil Stewart and Delphine Schrank

WASHINGTON/PIJIJIAPAN, Mexico (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration may send up to 1,000 active-duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, officials said on Thursday, as Trump hammered away at the issue of illegal immigration two weeks ahead of congressional elections.

Trump’s threat was sparked by the advance of a caravan of Central American migrants trekking through Mexico, headed toward the United States.

“I am bringing out the military for this National Emergency. They will be stopped!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

But the migrants appeared undeterred on Thursday night as several thousand of them bedded down more than 1,000 miles (1,610 km) from the U.S. border, in the town of Pijijiapan in Mexico’s southern Chiapas state, after hiking hours from their last stop.

“Whatever Trump may say, he’s not going to hold us back,” said Denis Omar Contreras, a caravan organizer from Honduras, who plans to help lead the group to northern Mexico. Many said the fear of returning to a violent homeland loomed larger than the president’s threats.

“We’ve come fleeing our country. If we return to Honduras, the gangs will probably kill us,” he said.

Trump and his fellow Republicans have sought to make the caravan and immigration into major issues before the Nov. 6 elections, in which Republicans are battling to keep control of Congress.

Trump, who has maintained a hard line on immigration since taking office last year, is considering a plan to ban entry of migrants at the southern border and deny them asylum, according to media reports.

The reports offered few details. A White House official said “a wide range of administrative, legal and legislative options” were being considered, but that no decisions had been made.

The possibility of executive action to lock out any migrants in the caravan and the likely positioning of more soldiers at the U.S. border with Mexico could energize Trump supporters at the ballot box. Any ban would face likely legal challenges.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in an interview with Fox News Channel that her department had asked the Pentagon for help to bolster its capabilities as it polices the border, including asking for “some air support … some logistics, planning, vehicle barriers, engineering.”

The DHS request could require deploying between 800 and 1,000 active-duty troops, two U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. military is prohibited from carrying out civilian law enforcement on American soil unless specifically authorized by Congress.

There are currently 2,100 National Guardsmen along the border, but the DHS request could lead to the first large-scale deployment of active-duty U.S. military forces to support the border protection mission under Trump.

‘GO BACK TO YOUR COUNTRY’

“To those in the Caravan, turnaround, we are not letting people into the United States illegally. Go back to your Country and if you want, apply for citizenship like millions of others are doing!” Trump tweeted on Thursday.

 

More than 1,000 people arrived in Guatemala on Monday, part of a second caravan, but have since divided into smaller groups to push on northward.

The larger caravan is now in southern Mexico and left Honduras nearly two weeks ago. It numbered more than 5,000 when it settled in the town of Mapastepec on Wednesday night, a local official said. Many are fleeing violence, poverty and government corruption in their home countries.

“I wish he could see that we are doing this from our heart, with great desire to move forward,” said Jose Rodriguez, 29, referring to the U.S. president.

Trump pledged during the 2016 presidential race to build a wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico. But the funding for his signature campaign promise has been slow to materialize.

In April, frustrated by lack of progress on the wall, Trump ordered the National Guard to help secure the border.

Adam Isacson, an official at the Washington Office on Latin America, a group that advocates for migrant rights, expressed misgivings about the potential deployment.

“Even if it’s a short-term deployment, it’s another step toward militarization of our border,” Isacson said, adding that 40 percent of people being apprehended at the border were children and families.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington and Delphine Schrank in Pijijiapan; Additional reporting by Makini Brice, Steve Holland and Yeganeh Torbati and Eric Beech in Washington, Michael O’Boyle in Mexico City and Sofia Menchu in Guatemala City; Editing by Will Dunham and Peter Cooney)

U.S. military receives request for troops to protect border

By Phil Stewart and Makini Brice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military has received a request from the Department of Homeland Security for active-duty troops on the U.S.-Mexico border, a U.S. official said on Thursday, after President Donald Trump said he was “bringing out the military” to guard against a caravan of Central American migrants trekking through Mexico.

The U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. military was examining the request that could require deploying between 800 and 1,000 active-duty troops to the border to assist with logistics and infrastructure.

The U.S. official said that any troops deployed to the border would not be involved in “law enforcement” activities, something that would be prohibited by a federal law dating to the 1870s.

That law restricts the use of the Army and other main branches of the military for civilian law enforcement on U.S. soil unless specifically authorized by Congress. But the military can provide support services to law enforcement and has done so on occasion since the 1980s.

Some specific statutes authorize the president to deploy troops within the United States for riot control or relief efforts after natural disasters.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump has taken a hard line toward immigration – legal and illegal – since becoming president last year. On Monday, Trump said he had alerted the Border Patrol and the U.S. military that the migrant caravan was a national emergency.

Despite raising Trump’s ire, thousands of Central American men, women and children seeking to escape violence, poverty and government corruption in their home countries continued their journey toward the distant U.S. border. Under a full moon early on Thursday, they walked from Mapastepec, close to the Guatemala border in southern Mexico. A town official said there had been 5,300 migrants in Mapastepec on Wednesday night.

A second group of more than a thousand people has started a similar journey from Guatemala.

“I am bringing out the military for this National Emergency. They will be stopped!” Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to the migrants.

White House officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Trump’s comments regarding a military deployment and a national emergency.

Trump and his fellow Republicans have sought to make the caravan and immigration major issues ahead of the Nov. 6 U.S. congressional elections in which the party is trying to maintain control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

It is not new territory for Trump, who pledged during the 2016 presidential race to build a wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico. However, funding for his signature campaign promise has been slow to materialize even though his party controls Congress and the White House.

In April, frustrated by lack of progress on the wall, Trump ordered the National Guard to help secure the border in four southwestern states. There are currently 2,100 National Guard troops along the borders of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Also in April, Trump raised the prospect of sending active-duty military forces to the border to block illegal immigration, raising questions in Congress and among legal experts about troop deployments on American soil.

(Reporting by Makini Brice; Additional reporting by Delphine Schrank in Mapastepec, Mexico; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Will Dunham)

U.S.-bound Central American migrants on the move in Mexico

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, take a shower in the Mapastepec city center, Mexico October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

By Delphine Schrank and Ana Isabel Martinez

MAPASTEPEC, Mexico/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Central American migrants clustered for the night on Wednesday in a southern Mexico town after advancing on their trek toward the United States, despite Mexico’s vows to hinder their progress under pressure from the Trump administration.

Thousands of men, women and children, mostly from Honduras, shuffled throughout the afternoon into the town of Mapastepec in Chiapas state, still more than 1,100 miles (1,770 km) from the U.S. border.

A migrant woman rests roadside with her child while traveling with a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States as they make their way to Mapastepec from Huixtla, Mexico October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

A migrant woman rests roadside with her child while traveling with a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States as they make their way to Mapastepec from Huixtla, Mexico October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

As nightfall came and rain began to pour, they camped out on sidewalks in the small town, wrapping knapsacks in plastic and huddling beneath awnings.

Their trek has drawn the ire of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has used the migrant caravan to fire up support for his Republican party in Nov. 6 congressional elections.

It has also prompted Washington to put pressure on the Mexican government to halt the migrants’ progress.

The caravan, which began as a march of a few hundred people from the crime-wracked Honduran city of San Pedro Sula on Oct. 13, swelled into the thousands as it was joined by migrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

Mexican immigration authorities have told the migrants they will not be able to cross illegally into the United States.

Alex Mensing of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, a group that organized a previous migrant caravan that angered Trump in April, said on Wednesday the current caravan is comprised of about 10,000 people.

Pueblo Sin Fronteras is accompanying the caravan, which Mensing forecast would fragment in due course.

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, are seen dancing in the Mapastepec city center, Mexico October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, are seen dancing in the Mapastepec city center, Mexico October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

“It’s very unlikely that 10,000 people will arrive together at a border city between Mexico and the United States,” he told a conference call with reporters.

“There will be people who stay in Mexico, there will be people who go to different borders because everyone has their own plan and different support where they have family members.”

Migrants began departing Huixtla in the wee hours of the morning, fanning out for about a mile and half on the road toward Mapastepec. They walked in flip flops and old sneakers. Many hitched rides from hundreds of cars, trucks and public transportation.

A Chiapas church group said they cooked for a full day, then drove over an hour from the mountains to reach the caravan, where they handed out coffee, sugary bread and tamales, cornmeal patties stuffed with meat and vegetables.

Every time they stopped to serve, migrants flung their small packs aboard their pickup, hoping to catch a ride.

“No, no,” church volunteer Liz Magail Rodriguez said, pointing to the containers of food. “With these tamales, you’ll have energy to walk all day.”

On Wednesday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called U.S. Vice President Mike Pence “crazy” and “extremist” for accusing his government of financing the caravan. Pence said on Tuesday that the group was “financed by Venezuela,” without providing evidence.

Mexican authorities have tried to walk a fine line between responding to Trump’s demands to close its borders and respecting migrants’ rights.

Mexico’s interior ministry said in a statement on Wednesday evening that about 3,630 people are part of the migrant caravan in Mexico that was advancing from Huixtla, around 30 miles (50 km) north of the Guatemalan border, to Mapastepec.

Reuters could not independently verify how many people were in that group.

A separate group of least 1,000 migrants, mostly Hondurans, has been moving slowly through Guatemala toward Mexico. Some media have put the number above 2,000.

(Additional reporting by Jose Cortes in Mapastepec, Corina Pons and Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Writing by Michael O’Boyle and Daina Beth Solomon Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Tom Brown, Toni Reinhold)

Trump says he is ‘bringing out the military’ to protect border

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. border wall with Mexico is seen from the United States in Nogales, Arizona September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

By Makini Brice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Thursday he was “bringing out the military” to protect the U.S. border as a caravan of Central American migrants continued a slow trek through Mexico toward the United States but provided no details.

Despite raising Trump’s ire, thousands of Central American men, women and children seeking to escape violence, poverty and government corruption in their home countries continued their journey toward the distant U.S. border. Under a full moon early on Thursday, they walked from Mapastepec, close to the Guatemala border in southern Mexico. A town official said there had been 5,300 migrants in Mapastepec on Wednesday night.

A second group of more than a thousand people has started a similar journey from Guatemala.

“I am bringing out the military for this National Emergency. They will be stopped!” Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to the migrants.

White House and Pentagon officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Trump’s comments regarding a military deployment and a national emergency.

Trump has taken a hard line toward immigration – legal and illegal – since becoming president last year. On Monday, Trump said he had alerted the Border Patrol and the U.S. military that the migrant caravan was a national emergency.

A Pentagon spokesman said on Monday that while the National Guard troops are supporting Department of Homeland Security personnel on the border, the Defense Department had not been asked to provide additional support.

Trump and his fellow Republicans have sought to make the caravan and immigration major issues ahead of the Nov. 6 U.S. congressional elections in which the party is trying to maintain control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

It is not new territory for Trump, who pledged during the 2016 presidential race to build a wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico. However, funding for his signature campaign promise has been slow to materialize even though his party controls Congress and the White House.

In April, frustrated by lack of progress on the wall, Trump ordered the National Guard to help secure the border in four southwestern states. There are currently 2,100 National Guard troops along the borders of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Also in April, Trump raised the prospect of sending active-duty military forces to the border to block illegal immigration, raising questions in Congress and among legal experts about troop deployments on American soil.

A federal law dating to the 1870s restricts the use of the Army and other main branches of the military for civilian law enforcement on U.S. soil unless specifically authorized by Congress. But the military can provide support services to law enforcement and has done so on occasion since the 1980s.

Some specific statutes authorize the president to deploy troops within the United States for riot control or relief efforts after natural disasters.

(Reporting by Makini Brice; Additional reporting by Delphine Schrank in Mapastepec, Mexico; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Will Dunham)

Second migrant caravan in Guatemala heads toward Mexico

Central American migrants queue at a border connecting Guatemala and Mexico while waiting to cross into Mexico, in Talisman, Mexico October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

By Delphine Schrank and Sofia Menchu

TAPACHULA, Mexico/GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – A group of more than a thousand Central Americans in Guatemala headed toward the Mexican border on Tuesday as the first caravan of migrants paused in southern Mexico on its planned journey toward the U.S. border.

U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to begin cutting millions of dollars in aid to Central America and called the caravan in Mexico a national emergency as he seeks to boost his Republican Party’s chances in the Nov. 6 congressional elections.

The caravan, which has been estimated at 7,000 to 10,000 mostly Honduran migrants fleeing violence and poverty in their homelands, is currently in the town of Huixtla in Chiapas state around 31 miles (50 km) north of the Guatemalan border.

Mexico’s government said in a statement on Tuesday that it had received 1,699 requests for refugee status, including children. The government estimates there are around 4,500 people in the group.

Hundreds of migrants were resting in Huixtla on Tuesday, as religious groups and companies donated clothes. Local authorities provided vaccines, food and drink.

“When we heard the caravan was coming (we joined)…people in Guatemala are also suffering from poverty. So this is an opportunity to improve my family’s life,” said Elsa Romero, a Guatemalan mother of four.

Migrant Alexander Fernandez said the column planned to move again early on Wednesday morning.

Separately, Casa del Migrante, a migrant shelter in Guatemala City, said more than 1,000 people who set out from Honduras were moving through Guatemala toward the Mexican border. Some local media said there were more than 2,000.

Trump and fellow Republicans have sought to make the caravan and immigration issues in the election, which will determine whether their party keeps control of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.

Honduran authorities say that at least two men have died so far on Mexican roads during the advance of the caravan. One of the men fell off a truck in Mexico, and the other died trying to get onto a truck in Guatemala, authorities said.

The caravan in Mexico is still far from the United States border – more than 1,100 miles (1,800 km).

Mexico, which has refused Trump’s demands that it pay for a border wall between the countries, tries to walk a fine line between showing solidarity with the Central American migrants and responding to Washington’s demands to control its borders.

Mexico hopes to disperse the convoy long before it can reach the border, telling migrants to register with authorities in order to submit applications for asylum in Mexico.

That process can last weeks, and migrants are supposed to stay where they register while applications are processed. If they violate those rules, they face deportation.

(Reporting by Delphine Schrank and Sofia Menchu; editing by Grant McCool)