Around 1,000 Central American migrants marched freely through the Guatemala-Mexico border on Friday after the gates were left wide open, with Mexican authorities standing down from confronting the caravan.
The border gates were open only temporarily, but migrants – who crossed the bridge from Tecun-Uman to Ciudad Hidalgo – were surprised to find no locks on the gates, effectively giving them a free pass to enter the country without being stuck at the border or registering with immigration officials and now begin the trek to the U.S. border, which can range from between 1,000 to 2,500 miles depending on the point of entry.
There was little presence of police or border security officials. A Mexican official told Fox News that they “did not want to confront” the migrant caravan, fearing the repetition of last year’s incident where violent clashes between police and the migrants broke out.
It remains unclear if the border gates were left open intentionally by the authorities or if migrants broke the locks.
President Trump, who is embroiled in a bitter standoff with Congressional Democrats over funding for the border wall, jumped on reports of migrants entering Mexico and warned that the caravan is coming towards the U.S.
“Another big Caravan heading our way. Very hard to stop without a Wall!” he wrote in a tweet.
Another big Caravan heading our way. Very hard to stop without a Wall!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2019
The unrestricted crossing on Friday looked starkly different from the scene in October at the exact same location, when migrants tried to push through closed gates and ranks of riot police, prompting authorities to fire pepper spray.
It was thought on Thursday that Mexican authorities will follow the new procedures introduced by the government in the wake of the clashes that would force migrants to wait five days for their paperwork to be processed before letting them enter the country.
But some caravan members have told Fox News that they won’t be following the new procedures, claiming they don’t trust the government, and may even cross the border without waiting.
Since the last caravan crossing, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was sworn in as the new Mexico president. He’s an advocate of a more humane solution to the migrant caravan, including a jobs program for the migrants in an effort to stop the flow of migrants towards the U.S.
In exchange, the Mexican leader asks Trump to put in money to improve economic conditions in the region.
Guatemalan Officials estimated the caravan at 1,800 people as another two caravans are on their way – one from El Salvador with approx 150 ppl and another set to depart from Honduras on Sunday.