Caravan of hundreds of Central Americans moves into Mexico

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Hundreds of Central Americans crossed the Guatemalan border into Mexico early on Thursday, testing the Mexican government’s resolve to stem the movement of people north under pressure from the United States.

Television footage showed a caravan of migrants moving towards the southern Mexican city of Tapachula, after crossing the Suchiate River that divides Mexico and Guatemala.

Most want to reach the United States. However, U.S. President Donald Trump has put pressure on the Mexican government to adopt more restrictive measures to reduce the migrant flows.

Many of the Central Americans migrants heading north are fleeing economic hardship and violence at home.

Migrants, mainly from Central America, marching in a caravan cross the Suchiate river on the outskirts of Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico January 23, 2020. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

The current group of migrants is the largest surge of people to test Mexico since its president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and some Central American governments, made various agreements with Trump to reduce pressure on the U.S. southern border.

Trump has threatened to punish Mexico and Central American nations economically if they fail to address the migrant flows.

Migrants crossing into Mexico earlier this week faced tear gas from security forces, who delivered a firmer response than in previous mass crossings of the border.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said several hundred of the new arrivals were immediately deported.

(Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Migrant deaths rise among Venezuelans, Central Americans: U.N.

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

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – At least 380 Latin American migrants have died on their journeys this year, many of them Venezuelans drowning in the Caribbean or Central Americans perishing while trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, the U.N. migration agency said on Tuesday.

The toll, 50 percent more than the 241 recorded as of mid-June 2018, also coincides with tightened security along the U.S. southern border, which often leads migrants to turn to underground criminal smugglers and take riskier routes, it said.

President Donald Trump has made reducing illegal migration one of his signature policy pledges. His administration on Monday cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, after Trump blasted the three Central American countries because thousands of their citizens had sought asylum at the U.S. border with Mexico.

“This month has been marked by several tragedies on the U.S.-Mexico border, where at least 23 people have died since May 30 May, that is more than one per day,” spokesman Joel Millman of the International Organization for Migration told a briefing.

IOM figures show that so far, 144 migrants are known to have died in Mexico, 143 in the Caribbean, 66 along Mexico’s southern border with Central America and 27 in South America.

A further 42 reported deaths were under investigation in Mexico, and of several dozen more refugees and migrants crossing the Darien jungle in Panama, he added.

“So we are seeing a level of fatality that we haven’t seen before. We caution that with the summer months just beginning, with the intense heat that brings, we can expect it to get worse,” Millman said.

Four million Venezuelans have fled their homeland, most of them since an economic and humanitarian crisis began in 2015, the U.N. refugee agency says. Most went overland to Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil.

But in images reminiscent of desperate Cubans fleeing their homeland in decades past, Venezuelans increasingly are taking to the sea in rickety boats.

The overall toll includes more than 80 Venezuelans who have died or disappeared in three shipwrecks in the Caribbean in the past two months, Millman said.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch called for better search and rescue operations to save Venezuelans fleeing via the Caribbean.

“As Venezuelans continue to use dangerous sea routes to leave their country, the U.N. refugee agency is calling for more coordinated search and rescue efforts to prevent further loss of life,” Baloch said.”It is also absolutely vital that people are able to access safe territory in ways that do not require them to risk their lives,” he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Mexico prepares for arrival of next Central American migrant caravan

FILE PHOTO: Migrants, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, leave a temporary shelter voluntarily, which is to be closed by Mexican authorities for sanitary reasons, in Tijuana Mexico January 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes

By Diego Oré

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican authorities will meet with Central American officials to prepare for the arrival of a planned new caravan of migrants headed to the United States next week.

The head of Mexico’s immigration office, Tonatiuh Guillen, left on Wednesday on a trip to El Salvador and Honduras to meet with his counterparts and other authorities, said Interior Ministry spokesman Hector Gandini.

Mexico hopes to discourage a mass exodus from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, and wants Central Americans who decide to migrate north to do so in an orderly way and through legal ports of entry.

“The doors to Mexico are open to anyone who wants to enter in an orderly fashion,” Gandini told Reuters in a telephone interview. “But whoever wants to come in illegally will be deported.”

Previous Central American caravans became a flashpoint in the debate over U.S. immigration policy.

That was intensified by the recent deaths of two migrant children in American custody and a partial U.S. government shutdown over U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion in funding for a wall along the border with Mexico.

There are 12 legal ports of entry for Central Americans on Mexico’s southern border, but Mexican authorities have identified an additional 370 illegal points of entry on that frontier, Interior Minister Olga Sanchez said this week.

Mexico borders in the south with Guatemala and Belize.

The illegal entry points will be “monitored and controlled to avoid undocumented access of people to our territory,” Sanchez said.

Guatemala’s deputy foreign minister, Pablo Cesar Garcia, met with Mexican authorities on Tuesday to discuss the caravan and to “provide all the necessary support to the migrants,” said Guatemalan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marta Larra.

“In Honduras, they kill us,” read an appeal circulating on social media for people to assemble in the violent Honduran city of San Pedro Sula next Tuesday to start the long trek north to the United States.

While other social media posts invite people to leave from nearby Santa Barbara on Jan. 20, U.S. authorities hoped to dissuade Central Americans from making the journey.

“The risks of illegal immigration are serious. Don’t waste your time and money on a trip destined to fail. The road is long and very dangerous. Thousands of Hondurans who participated in the caravan came back sorry,” Heide Fulton, the U.S chargé d’affaires to Honduras, said on Twitter on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Diego Ore; Additional reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa, Sofia Menchu in Guatemala City, Nelson Renteria in San Salvador and Lizbeth Diaz in Tijuana, Mexico; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Mexico suggests work visas for Central Americans, wants U.S. to do same

Mexico's new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds a news conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico December 3, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador proposed on Wednesday offering more work visas for Central Americans and said the United States should do the same, part of a negotiation aimed at stemming the northward flow of migrants.

Lopez Obrador, who took office on Saturday, said he would discuss immigration with U.S. President Donald Trump in coming days, including increasing investment in southern Mexico and Central America.

“We are proposing investment in productive projects and in job creation, and not only that, also work visas for Mexico and for the United States,” he told a news conference, saying he would give more details “soon.”

Mexico and the United States have been in talks about how to manage the large groups moving through Mexico in caravans, with Lopez Obrador pushing for investment to address the poverty and crime that drive thousands of people every year from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

Lopez Obrador, soon after being elected in July, sent a letter to Trump suggesting they work together to address the root causes of immigration.

“It is very important to us that we reach an investment agreement between companies and governments, to create jobs in Central America and our country,” he said.

Lopez Obrador plans major infrastructure projects in the impoverished south of Mexico including his home state of Tabasco. He says those plans, including a refinery and two railways will provide jobs to Mexicans and Central Americans.

He did not reply when asked if his government was considering a U.S. proposal to return Central American asylum seekers to Mexican territory while U.S. courts processed their cases, saying only that their rights would be respected.

The arrival of several thousand Central Americans in Mexico’s border city of Tijuana about a month ago prompted Trump to mobilize the U.S. Army to beef up border security, while restricting the number of asylum applications accepted per day.

While overall illegal immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border is much lower than it was 20 years ago, there are more Central Americans, families and asylum seekers than in the past.

Some migrants clambered over a tall fence to cross into the United States from Tijuana on Tuesday, hoping to speed their asylum applications by turning themselves over to U.S. Border Patrol officials.

(Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel, Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Peter Cooney)

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)