Senate rejects House-backed version of border aid bill

FILE PHOTO: The U.S.-Mexico border is seen near Lukeville, Pima County, Arizona, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate on Wednesday rejected a bill approved a day earlier by the House of Representatives that would have provided $4.5 billion to address a surge in migration at the U.S. border with Mexico, while setting new standards for the care of migrants taken into custody.

Last month, President Donald Trump requested aid for programs to house, feed, transport and oversee a surge of Central American migrants seeking asylum in the United States.

But he had vowed to veto the House legislation. White House officials had said the bill would hamper the Trump administration’s border enforcement efforts.

The Senate was set to move to a separate vote on its own border aid bill after defeating the House measure.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Tim Ahmann)

Mexico says it will finish National Guard roll-out to stem migration this week

FILE PHOTO - Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard speaks during a session with senators and lawmakers at the Senate building in Mexico City, Mexico June 14, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico will complete deployment of National Guard forces on its southern border with Guatemala this week as part of a new immigration control plan agreed with Washington, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard’said on Monday.

“The deployment of the National Guard ordered, with support from the Ministry of Defense and the Navy, will be completed this week,” Ebrard said at a news conference.

Mexico is stepping up efforts to cut the flow of mostly Central American migrants toward the U.S. border under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump, who vowed to hit Mexican goods with tariffs if it did not increase immigration control efforts.

Mexico made a deal on June 7 with the United States to avert the tariffs, setting the clock ticking on a 45-day period for the Mexican government to make palpable progress in reducing the numbers of people trying to cross the U.S. border illegally.

Mexico has pledged to send 6,000 National Guard members along its border with Guatemala under the deal.

That deployment has been patchy so far. A Reuters reporter near the border this weekend saw a handful of officials wearing National Guard insignia and spoke to other security personnel who said they were part of the guard.

There has been a jump in apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border this year, angering Trump, who has made reducing illegal immigration one of his signature policy pledges as he heads into his campaign to win a second four-year term in November 2020.

Most of those caught attempting to enter the United States are people fleeing poverty and violence in the troubled Central American nations of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

(Reporting by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Dave Graham and Bill Trott)

U.S.-Mexico migration talks continue as tariff deadline looms

Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard exits the U.S. State Department to speak to reporters after a meeting between U.S. and Mexican officials on immigration and trade in Washington, U.S., June 6, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

By Susan Heavey and Anthony Esposito

WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – U.S. and Mexican negotiators resumed migration talks on Friday as the two sides edged closer to a trade war that could hobble both countries’ economies and rattle investors already nervous about Washington’s escalating battle with China.

U.S. President Donald Trump has warned that tariffs of 5% will be imposed on all Mexican exports to the United States on Monday if Mexico does not step up efforts to stem an increase in mostly Central American migrants heading for the U.S. border.

“As negotiations continued yesterday, we were more encouraged that they came forward with some of the things we put on the table Wednesday to say they were open to that,” Marc Short, chief of staff to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, told reporters outside the White House.

Short added that the Trump administration planned to move forward with a legal notification of its planned 5% tariff on Mexican goods. “You should anticipate that happening today,” he said.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said while the meetings had gone well, “we’re still on track for tariffs on Monday.”

Trump, who has railed against what he describes as a surge of migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border, will have the final say over any deal, Pence said on Thursday. Pence also said progress had been made in the talks but gave no specifics.

Trump is returning to Washington on Friday after a week-long trip to Europe.

The U.S. president has threatened to continue raising the tariffs on Mexico after the initial levies go into effect on June. 10 if a migration deal fails to materialize.

Mexico, whose economy is heavily dependent on trade with the United States, is scrambling to avoid such a scenario.

“It’s a good sign that talks have not broken down,” Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told reporters in Mexico City. “There is dialogue and an agreement can be reached. I’m optimistic we can achieve that.”

Lopez Obrador, however, said it was a mistake for the United States to link migration with trade.

Mexico has prepared a list of possible retaliatory tariffs targeting U.S. products from agricultural and industrial states regarded as Trump’s electoral base, a tactic China has also used with an eye toward the president’s 2020 re-election bid.

That would put the United States in a serious trade dispute with its southern neighbor and China – two of its three top trading partners.

The United States slapped up to 25% tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports last month, prompting Beijing to levy its own tariffs on a revised target list of $60 billion in American goods.

Trump said on Thursday he would decide later this month whether to carry out his threat to hit Beijing with tariffs on at least $300 billion in Chinese goods.

U.S. officials officially granted Chinese exporters two more weeks to get their products into the United States before increasing tariffs on those items, according to a U.S. government notice posted online on Friday.

OPPOSITION

U.S. business groups are generally opposed to the escalation of the trade tensions, warning that the tariffs will raise costs for companies and lead to higher prices for American consumers. Trump’s fellow Republicans also are not keen on the tariffs.

Economists warn that the trade wars could damage key supply lines and lead to a further slowdown of the global economy. Even the United States, one of the more solid performers on the economic stage, would suffer.

The U.S. Labor Department reported on Friday that job growth slowed sharply in May and wages rose less than expected, raising fears that a loss of momentum in economic activity could be spreading to the labor market.

Global equities rose on Friday on the prospect that central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve, would loosen monetary policy to offset trade frictions and the threat of global recession.

Analysts warn that tariffs could spark a recession in Mexico. Credit ratings agency Fitch downgraded Mexico’s sovereign debt rating on Wednesday, citing trade tensions among other risks, while Moody’s lowered its outlook to negative.

Ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Trump is eager to show progress on his 2016 campaign pledges to take a hard line on immigration. Apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border hit a decade high in May.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu in Washington, Anthony Esposito in Mexico City and Steve Holland in Shannon, Ireland; Writing by Paul Simao; Editing by Susan Thomas)

Tired of waiting for asylum, migrants from caravan breach U.S. border

Migrants from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, put their hands in the air as they surrender to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official in San Diego County, U.S., after crossing illegally from Mexico to the U.S by jumping a border fence, photographed from Tijuana, Mexico, December 3, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

By Christine Murray

TIJUANA, Mexico (Reuters) – Central American migrants stuck on the threshold of the United States in Mexico breached the border fence on Monday, risking almost certain detention by U.S. authorities but hoping the illegal entry will allow them to apply for asylum.

Since mid-October, thousands of Central Americans, mostly from Honduras, have traveled north through Mexico toward the United States in a caravan, some walking much of the long trek.

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, climb a border fence to cross illegally from Mexico to the U.S, in Tijuana, Mexico, December 3, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, climb a border fence to cross illegally from Mexico to the U.S, in Tijuana, Mexico, December 3, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to stop the migrants entering, sending troops to reinforce the border and attempting a procedural change, so far denied by the courts, to require asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their cases are heard.

Frustrated and exhausted after weeks of uncertainty, many of the migrants have become desperate since getting stuck in squalid camps in the Mexican border city of Tijuana.

So a number opted to eschew legal procedures and attempt an illegal entry from Tijuana as dusk fell on Monday at a spot about 1,500 feet (450 meters) away from the Pacific Ocean.

In less than an hour, Reuters reporters observed roughly two dozen people climb the approximately 10-foot (3-meter) fence made of thick sheets and pillars of metal. They chose a place in a large overgrown ditch where the fence is slightly lower.

Just before dusk, three thin people squeezed through the fence on the beach and were quickly picked up by the U.S. Border Patrol, witnesses said.

But along the border inland as darkness descended, more and more migrants followed, many bringing children.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials walk on the beach in San Diego County, U.S., as photographed through the border wall in Tijuana, Mexico, December 3, 2018 REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials walk on the beach in San Diego County, U.S., as photographed through the border wall in Tijuana, Mexico, December 3, 2018, REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Some used a blanket as a rope to help loved ones get over.

A mother and her children made it over the first fence and disappeared into the night.

The sight of them climbing the fence encouraged others, even as a helicopter patrolled overhead on the U.S. side.

Earlier, Karen Mayeni, a 29-year-old Honduran, sized up the fence while clinging to her three children, aged six, 11 and 12.

“We’re just observing, waiting to see what happens,” Mayeni said. “We’ll figure out what to do in a couple of days.”

Ninety minutes later, she and her family were over the fence.

A number of the migrants ran to try to escape capture, but most of them walked slowly to where U.S. Border Patrol officials were waiting under floodlights to hand themselves in.

‘STAND ON MY HEAD’

Some of the migrants are likely to be economic refugees without a strong asylum claim, but others tell stories of receiving politically motivated death threats in a region troubled by decades of instability and violence.

Applying for asylum at a U.S. land border can take months, so if migrants enter illegally and present themselves to authorities, their cases could be heard quicker.

U.S. officials have restricted applications through the Chaparral gate in Tijuana to between 40 and 100 per day.

Some may hope to defeat the odds and penetrate one of the most fortified sections of the southern U.S. border.

Those that made it across the fence in Tijuana still had to scramble up a hill and contend with a more forbidding wall to reach California, and U.S. Border Patrol agents had the territory between the two barriers heavily covered.

“Climb up. You can do it! Stand on my head!” one migrant said, egging his companion on.

One child and his mother got over the fence and ran up the hill behind. They turned around and waved to those still on the Mexican side.

(Reporting by Christine Murray; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Nick Macfie)

U.S. briefly shutters border crossing to brace for migrants

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Special Response Team (SRT) officers stand guard at the San Ysidro Port of Entry after the land border crossing was temporarily closed to traffic from Tijuana, Mexico November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

By Lizbeth Diaz

TIJUANA, Mexico (Reuters) – U.S. officials briefly closed the busiest border crossing from Mexico early on Monday to add concrete barricades and razor wire amid concerns that some of the thousands of Central American migrants at the border could try to rush the crossing.

Northbound lanes at the San Ysidro crossing from Tijuana to San Diego, California, were closed “to position additional port hardening materials,” a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said.

A Department of Homeland Security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters in a conference call later that U.S. officials had heard reports some migrants were intending to run through border crossings into California.

Ahead of U.S. congressional elections earlier this month, President Donald Trump denounced the approach of a caravan of migrants as an “invasion” that threatened American national security. He sent thousands of U.S. troops to the border.

By dawn on Monday, 15 of 26 vehicle lanes had reopened at the San Ysidro crossing, according to the DHS official.

It was a rare closing of the station, which is one of the busiest border crossings in the world, with tens of thousands Mexicans heading every day into the United States to work or study.

“Today was a lost day of work. I already called my boss to tell her that everything was closed and I did not know what time I would be able to get in,” said Maria Gomez, a Mexican woman who crosses the border every day for work. “I cannot believe this is happening.”

Trump had remained mostly silent about the caravan since the Nov. 6 vote, but on Monday he posted a photo on Twitter showing a fence that runs from the beach in Tijuana into the ocean now covered with razor wire.

About 6,000 Central Americans have reached the border cities of Tijuana and Mexicali, according to local officials. More bands of migrants are making their way toward Tijuana, with around 10,000 expected.

Hundreds of local residents on Sunday massed at a monument in a wealthy neighborhood of Tijuana to protest the arrival of the migrants, with some carrying signs that said “Mexico first” and “No more migrants.”

Last month, thousands of Central American migrants began a long journey from Honduras through Mexico toward the United States to seek asylum.

Other bands of mostly Salvadorans followed, with a small group setting off on Sunday from San Salvador.

(Additional reporting by Yeganeh Torbati in Washington; Editing by Dan Grebler)

‘Get out’: some Mexico border residents reject migrant arrivals

Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, sit in a bus while the bus stop for them to get food and water from a store on a highway in Culiacan, Mexico November 15, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

By Lizbeth Diaz

TIJUANA, Mexico (Reuters) – Exhausted after a harrowing journey, members of Central American migrant caravans now face a new threat: open hostility from some Mexicans on the U.S. border.

A small group of residents of an upscale neighborhood in the Mexican border of Tijuana confronted caravan migrants late on Wednesday, throwing stones and telling them to go back to their home countries.

“Get out of here,” a group of around 20 people shouted at a camp of Hondurans near the border. “We want you to return to your country. You are not welcome.”

Migrants shouted back, in a confrontation that belied Tijuana’s reputation as a free-wheeling, tolerant city and lasted into the early hours of Thursday. Dozens of police arrived at the scene.

A caravan of thousands of mostly Honduran migrants who are fleeing violence and poverty at home set off for the United States in mid-October, with the bulk of them still to arrive at the border. Other large bands of mostly Salvadorans have followed behind.

Trump has declared the caravans an “invasion,” and has sent some 5,800 troops to “harden” the border, including with barbed wire.

With some exceptions, Mexico has welcomed the Central Americans, offering food and lodging in towns during their journey. The migrants said they were stunned by the hostile attitude in Tijuana.

“We are not criminals. Why do treat us like this if everywhere we have traveled in Mexico they treated us well?” migrants shouted back. “Think about the children who are here, please.”

Tensions began brewing several days ago when residents complained about a group of 80 or so LGBT migrants who broke away from the caravan and arrived in an upscale part of the Playas de Tijuana neighborhood, near where the stones were thrown.

A popular party town for U.S. tourists, Tijuana has a history of absorbing visitors, including Chinese immigrants in the 19th century. It has a large American population and some 3,000 Haitians settled in the city, just south of San Diego, in 2016 after failing to cross the U.S. border.

But the arrival of hundreds of members of the caravans has stretched to the limit migrant shelters that were already overflowing with people. While Tijuana’s traditional generosity was also on display, with the government setting up a new shelter and citizens offering food and clothing, a harder attitude also emerged.

Reuters gained access to a WhatsApp chat group called “Citizen Blockade” where some 250 members using strong language discussed strategies to harass the migrants or block their arrival.

Tijuana’s city government opened a shelter for 360 people of an estimated 810 that arrived this week, and officials warned there was little room to house more than 2,000 more who are expected to arrive this week.

Irineo Mujica, representative of the organization Pueblos Sin Fronteras, which is advising the migrants in the caravan, said the migrants wanted to seek asylum in the United States.

Their arrival adds to already long lines of people who have been waiting their turn at the Tijuana crossing. Last week, Trump suspended the granting of asylum to migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

“We are looking for solutions, not confrontations,” Mujica said following the clash with Mexicans as a helicopter hovered above, surveying the scene from the American side.

(Writing by Michael O’Boyle; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Alistair Bell)

U.S.-bound migrants enter Guatemala, others clash at border

Men, part of a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America en route to the U.S., push the border gate as they try to cross into Mexico and carry on their journey, in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

By Nelson Renteria and Delphine Schrank

SONSONATE, El Salvador/TAPANATEPEC, Mexico (Reuters) – A new group of migrants bound for the United States set off from El Salvador and crossed into Guatemala on Sunday, following thousands of other Central Americans fleeing poverty and violence who have taken similar journeys in recent weeks.

The group of more than 300 Salvadorans left the capital San Salvador on Sunday. A larger group of mostly Hondurans, estimated to number between 3,500 and 7,000, who left their country in mid-October and are now in southern Mexico, has become a key issue in U.S. congressional elections.

A third group broke through a gate at the Guatemala border with Mexico in Tecun Uman on Sunday, and clashed with police. Local first responders said that security forces used rubber bullets against the migrants, and that one person, Honduran Henry Adalid, 26, was killed.

People walk in a caravan of migrants departing from El Salvador en route to the United States, in San Salvador, El Salvador, October 28, 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 28, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

Six police officers were injured, said Beatriz Marroquin, the director of health for the Retalhuleu region.

Mexico’s Interior Minister Alfonso Navarrete told reporters on Sunday evening that federal police did not have any weapons, even to fire plastic bullets.

He said that some of the migrants had guns while others had Molotov cocktails, and this information had been passed on to other Central American governments.

Guatemala’s government said in a statement that it regrets that the migrants didn’t take the opportunity of dialogue and instead threw stones and glass bottles at police.

U.S. President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans have sought to make immigration a major issue ahead of Nov. 6 elections, in which the party is battling to keep control of Congress.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on “Fox News Sunday” said Trump was determined to use every authority he had to stop immigrants from crossing the border illegally.

“We have a crisis at the border right now … This caravan is one iteration of that but frankly we essentially see caravans every day with these numbers,” she said.

“I think what the president is making clear is every possible action, authority, executive program, is on the table to consider, to ensure that it is clear that there is a right and legal way to come to this country and no other ways will be tolerated,” Nielsen added.

Trump has threatened to shut down the border with Mexico and last week said he would send troops. On Friday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis authorized the use of troops and other military resources at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mexican marines patrol the Suchiate river to stop the caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America en route to the U.S., to cross the river illegally from Tecun Uman, Guatemala, October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Mexican marines patrol the Suchiate river to stop the caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America en route to the U.S., to cross the river illegally from Tecun Uman, Guatemala, October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

BLISTERING HEAT

By Sunday evening, hundreds of the Salvadorans had crossed the border into Guatemala, having walked and hitched rides in pickups and on buses from the capital.

They organized using social networks like Facebook and WhatsApp over the last couple of weeks, inspired by the larger group in Mexico.

Salvadoran police traveled with the group, who carried backpacks and water bottles and protected themselves from the hot sun with hats.

Several migrants, gathered by the capital’s ‘Savior of the World’ statue before leaving, said they were headed to the United States.

El Salvador’s left-wing government said it had solidarity with the migrants and respected their right to mobilize, but urged them not to risk their lives on the way.

In Mexico, the original group of Hondurans, exhausted by constant travel in blistering heat, spent Sunday resting up in the town of Tapanatepec, Oaxaca, planning to head north at 3 am on Monday.

“It’s far … the farthest yet,” said Honduran Bayron Baca, 26, pulling open a map that Red Cross volunteers had given him in a medical tent.

Dozens took dips in a nearby river to refresh themselves from the trek, which has covered an average 30 miles (48 km) a day.

An estimated 2,300 children were traveling with the migrant caravan, UNICEF said in a statement, adding that they needed protection and access to essential services like healthcare, clean water and sanitation.

Eduardo Grajales, a Red Cross volunteer in Arriaga, Mexico, attending to migrants on Friday night, said the worst case his colleagues had seen that day was of a baby so badly sunburned from the tropical heat, he had to be hospitalized.

(Reporting by Nelson Renteria and Delphine Schrank, additional reporting by Carlos Rawlins, Sofia Menchu and Doina Chiacu; Writing by Christine Murray; Editing by Andrea Ricci, Rosalba O’Brien and Darren Schuettler)

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)