The ever-growing caravan of Central American migrants swelled on Sunday to an estimated 7,000 people, who are largely dedicated to traveling north in hopes of reaching the United States.
The caravan set out from Honduras on October 13 as a group of 160 migrants but grew to a massive group after word spread. The migrants have told news outlets they’re fleeing their home countries because of crippling poverty and widespread violence.
On Sunday they trekked through Mexico, chanting “Si se pudo,” Spanish for “Yes we could!”
President Donald Trump has raged against the governments of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, accusing them of not doing enough to stop the exodus of Central Americans.
Trump has threatened to cut aid to those countries if the caravan makes it to the US border, though he praised the Mexican government for deploying federal police officers to manage the situation.
“Full efforts are being made to stop the onslaught of illegal aliens from crossing” the US-Mexico border, he tweeted on Sunday. “People have to apply for asylum in Mexico first, and if they fail to do that, the U.S. will turn them away. The courts are asking the U.S. to do things that are not doable!”
He added: “The Caravans are a disgrace to the Democrat Party. Change the immigration laws NOW!”
‘If they stop us now, we’ll just come back a 2nd time’
Though Mexico has tried to prevent the migrants from crossing illegally and ordered them to request asylum from immigration officials at the US-Guatemala border, only several hundred did, according to NPR. Roughly 1,500 caravan members remained on the Guatemalan side of the border.
Many others entered Mexico illegally, crossing the Suchiate River, between Guatemala and Mexico, by swimming or taking rafts. Numerous migrants voted by a show of hands on Saturday, once they reached Mexico, to continue heading north, The New York Times reported.
“We want to get to the United States,” Maria Irias Rodriguez, 17, who was traveling from Honduras with her husband and two young children, told The Times. “If they stop us now, we’ll just come back a second time.”
The growing caravan and seeming inability to stop it highlights several complex issues at play: the labyrinthine US asylum system, from which the Trump administration has sought to remove protections against detaining and quickly deporting children; the gargantuan task of securing a 2,000-mile border with Mexico; and the often desperate circumstances in the countries that prompt people to flee, something that US government officials recently visited Guatemala to address.
Meanwhile, according to The Associated Press, Mexico’s president-elect, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, said Sunday that the US, Canada, and Mexico should strike a deal to invest in Central American development.
“He who leaves his town does not leave for pleasure but out of necessity,” he said.
Lopez Obrador, who takes office December 1, ran on a pro-immigration platform, promising jobs and work visas in Mexico to Central American migrants.