By Juan Manuel Blanco
Huixtla, Mexico, Jun 8 (EFE).- The roughly 15,000 migrants representing a score of countries who set out two days ago from Mexico’s southern border with hopes of reaching the United States paused here Wednesday to obtain documents allowing them to transit the Aztec nation.
After traveling about 42 km (26 mi) from Tapachula, the city near the Guatemalan border where many of them spent months awaiting documents, the migrants stopped in Huixtla to take advantage of a surprising change of heart by Mexico’s INM immigration agency.
The INM, which has been criticized for its sometimes brutal treatment of migrants, announced that it was ready to provide the participants in the caravan with transit permits.
Jose Cruz of Venezuela came away from the INM office in Huixtla with a FMM permit valid for 30 days.
“I’m telling everyone to go get their documents. Last night we were talking with the migration people and they gave us this document to circulate in Mexico,” he said with a smile.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the INM had issued more than 2,100 documents and was beginning to process applications for refugee visas.
Heydy Mar, a 36-year-old pregnant woman who traveled here from Venezuela with her husband and his brother, worries that the INM will put a limit on the number of visas issued.
“We have no money to eat. I’m four months pregnant, my feet will no longer carry me and I feel discouraged,” she told Efe.
More than 5,000 members of the caravan plan to leave Huixtla on Thursday with or without documents and expect to board buses for the long journey to the US border, according to activist Luis Rey Garcia Villagran, director of the Center for Human Dignity.
But a significant number of those who left Tapachula on Monday say they will remain in Huixtla until they receive their documents.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was asked Wednesday about an ostensible expanded military deployment on the southern border to deal with the new caravan, which was timed to coincide with this week’s migration-focused Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.
“What is being done is normal, there is no special plan,” he replied, adding that his government will review its approach when Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard returns from the summit.
The caravan is the latest manifestation of the 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 2022 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. EFE jmb/dr