New migrant caravan enters Mexico, legally or not

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Hundreds of Central Americans entered Mexico illegally as the latest migrant caravan trying to reach the United States began crossing the Mexican-Guatemalan border en masse Friday.

Not content to wait five days for the humanitarian visas Mexico is offering them, several hundred migrants took to make-shift rafts to cross the Suchiate River, which forms the frontier, or snuck across the loosely guarded border bridge overnight, AFP correspondents said.

Their advance could trigger a new Twitter firestorm from US President Donald Trump, who has urged Mexico to halt such caravans, and who tweeted early Friday: “Another big Caravan heading our way. Very hard to stop without a Wall!”

Hundreds more of the 2,000 migrants in the caravan gathered patiently on the border bridge, trickling into Mexico as the authorities processed them.

The authorities will set up checkpoints in southern Mexico to make migrants who snuck into the country register for visas, said Alejandro Encinas, under-secretary for migration.

“We are informing all of them that they must comply with our country’s laws,” he said.

Fuel for wall debate

Caravans of migrants seeking safety in numbers have taken center stage in the raging debate in the United States over Trump’s proposed border wall, which has led to a government shutdown that is now the longest in history.

The latest caravan is smaller than the one that swelled to 7,000 migrants late last year, leading Trump to warn of an “invasion” by “hardened criminals” and send thousands of troops to the US-Mexican border.

Mexican authorities are urging the migrants to arrive legally and offering expedited “visitor cards” that let them work and access basic health care in Mexico.

So far, 969 migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua have registered under the program, receiving bracelets that they can exchange for visitor cards in five days.

But hundreds more ignored the offer.

“A lot of us aren’t interested in waiting five days. Our goal is to reach the United States,” said Alma Mendoza, a nurse and single mother making the trip with her three children.

Published in Today’s Muslim, January 20th 2019.