Social Issues

Migrant caravan pauses in central Mexico to rest

By Gabriela Garcia Guzman

Puebla, Mexico, Dec 8 (EFE).- Having crossed 1,000 km (600 mi), the Central American and Haitian migrants who set out six weeks ago from the border with Guatemala after spending months trying to regularize their status paused Wednesday in the central Mexican state of Puebla to recuperate before resuming the arduous journey.

The roughly 200 migrants remaining from the caravan of thousands who departed Tapachula on Oct. 23 split up into several groups and camped out Tuesday night in various towns in Puebla, including San Miguel Xoxtla.

The migrants originally intended to go to Mexico City, reasoning that their presence in the capital would motivate authorities to address their plight.

As the weeks passed, however, the migrants who stuck with the caravan opted to proceed directly to northern Mexico and the border with the United States.

While some of the migrants had a roof over their heads Tuesday night thanks to social services, many had to sleep outdoors, some with newspapers for blankets.

One of the group in San Miguel Xoxtla, a woman identifying herself only as Brenda, told Efe that she, her husband and their nephew left their native Honduras Aug. 12 with the hope of getting a hospitable, respectful reception in Mexico.

But after more than two months waiting in Tapachula for Mexican immigration authorities to rule on her application for asylum, they decided to join the caravan.

“Due to the lack of support we embarked on the walk last Oct. 23 and then we have been walking and it has been hard on us,” she said.

Another Honduran, Jose Luis Valeria, said that though he has experienced moments of fear and helplessness, he has come too far to abandon the journey now.

Paradoxically, the reinstatement Monday of “Remain in Mexico,” a policy which forces migrants seeking asylum in the United States to wait on Mexican soil while their applications are processed, may have the effect of encouraging more migrants to head north in pursuit of the “American Dream.”

In 2018, then-President Donald Trump, used the threat of trade sanctions to coerce the Mexican government into agreeing to harbor third-country nationals applying for asylum in the US and his administration sent more than 70,000 applicants to Mexico.

The program, whose official name is Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), was roundly criticized by human rights organizations and deeply unpopular in Mexico and on taking office in January, new President Joe Biden suspended Remain in Mexico.

In August, however, a US federal judge ordered Biden to reactivate the MPP and after extended negotiations, Washington and Mexico City agreed on a resumption, but with a six-month time limit on how long an asylum-seeker can be required to wait in Mexico.

The remodeled MPP also includes a commitment by the Mexican government to ensure the welfare of the refugees.

Sources with the International Organization for Migration confirmed to Efe that the first two asylum applicants to be returned to Mexico under the resumed MPP arrived Wednesday in Ciudad Juarez from El Paso, Texas.

During the first 10 months of 2021, Mexican authorities intercepted 228,115 migrants and deported 82,627, numbers not seen in more than 15 years.

As of Nov. 30, a record 123,000 migrants have requested asylum in Mexico, up from a maximum of 40,000 or so in previous years. EFE ggg/dr

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