By Juan Manuel Blanco
Tapachula, Mexico, Jun 7 (EFE).- Around 15,000 migrants on Tuesday continued their advance through southern Mexico as part of an unprecedentedly large caravan, a journey that began in this border city and is aimed at pressuring authorities to allow them free passage to the United States border.
The trek coincides with the ongoing 9th Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, an event in which the current immigration crisis is one of the top priorities.
The caravan made a stop Tuesday in Huixtla (a municipality in the southeastern Mexican border state of Chiapas), where the migrants are seeking to reach a humanitarian visa agreement with the National Institute of Migration (INM).
Jonathan, a Venezuelan migrant, told Efe that all of the members of the caravan want to leave Chiapas and are merely seeking documents that allow them free passage to the US-Mexico border.
The director of the non-governmental organization Center for Human Dignity, migrant advocate Luis Rey Garcia Villagran, said INM Commissioner Francisco Garduño called him and pledged to assist all of the members of the caravan with their immigration proceedings.
“They’ll (the INM) work 24 hours a day, in his own words … until (migrants) have the document that allows them to travel through Mexican territory,” Garcia Villagran added.
The large group of migrants of a score of nationalities – most of them Venezuelan – resumed their journey on Tuesday morning from Alvaro Obregon, a community located 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from the caravan start point in Tapachula.
They continued on in two contingents. The first group of around 2,000 people set off at 3 am local time, while the bulk of the caravan was part of a second group that included children and pregnant women and advanced more slowly.
The migrants walked 30 km on Tuesday from Alvaro Obregon to Huixtla, a town with limited ability to host such a large mass of people.
The caravan is the latest manifestation of a current wave of migration to the US, whose Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency recorded a record total of more than 1.7 million illegal border crossings in the 2021 fiscal year that ended last Sept. 30.
Since the current fiscal year began on Oct. 1, 2021, the CBP says that more than 1 million migrants have been intercepted along the US’s southern border.
Mexico, for its part, says it deported more than 114,000 foreigners in 2021, the highest number in nearly 15 years, according to figures from the Migrant Policy Unit.
It remains unclear whether members of this latest caravan who are fleeing violence or persecution in their homelands will be able to have their asylum claims heard in the US.
A federal court ruling in Louisiana on May 20 that blocked President Joe Biden’s administration from ending Title 42 – invoked by his predecessor, Donald Trump, at the start of the pandemic to expel hundreds of thousands of migrants from the US due to health protocols – was a crushing blow for many would-be refugees.
Under that measure, CBP did not have to process requests from people who showed up at the border wanting to apply for asylum.
Biden also has been unsuccessful so far in his effort to eliminate Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols program, informally known as “Remain in Mexico.”
Since 2019, that Trump-era policy has required asylum seekers to stay for months in Mexico in precarious conditions until their US immigration court date.
Although the Biden administration formally ended that policy a year ago, a Texas court ruled last August that MPP was improperly terminated and the Supreme Court upheld that ruling.
That conservative-majority high court is expected to issue a final ruling this summer on whether the Biden administration can end the program. EFE