Over 1,500 Central Americans are on a crusade across Mexico in the hopes of being granted asylum at the U.S. border - a move which is set to pose an enormous challenge to the Trump administration's much campaigned about immigration policies, while reminding Trump's base that they still don't have the wall they elected him to build 14 months into his presidency.
"We want to become one, supporting us shoulder to shoulder and show that together we can break down borders," say the caravan's organizers.
Setting out six days ago and marching under the slogan "Migrantes en la lucha" ("Migrants in the Fight") during holy week, the caravan comprised mostly of Hondurans was organized roughly a month ago by the mysterious group Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People Without Borders) - which solicited donations via Facebook and encouraged volunteers to contact them.
''Our mission is to provide shelter and safety to migrants and refugees in transit, accompany them in their journey, and together demand respect for our human rights," reads the group's mission statement.
The Central American migrants, mostly Hondurans and Guatemalans, flee their countries because of insecurity and because they are threatened by gang members, also because of the economic and political situation in the region. -proceso.hn (translated)
“The crime rate is horrible, you can't live there,” a migrant named "Karen" told BuzzFeed News on the side of a highway near the Southern Mexico town of Huixtla. “After the president [was sworn in] it got worse. There were deaths, mobs, robbed homes, adults and kids were beaten up.”
"They want to reach the border and ask for asylum, the majority flee from gang violence, extortion and police abuses," says one of the organizers named Garibo.
Before setting out on the journey, the migrants were organized into groups of 10 to 15 people, and a leader was designated for each group. Five groups were then banded together in what organizers call a sector. While there are organizers from Pueblos Sin Fronteras leading the way, much of the effort to get to the US border is in the hands of the migrants themselves. -BuzzFeed
Migrants gathered for the march in the southern Mexico border town of Tapachula in advance of the march - where Pueblo Sin Fronteras conducted introductory workshops to help the Central Americans best navigate the United States once they arrive - including security drills in which male refugees are to form a wall around any threats to the women and children.
Help along the way
Despite a majority of the Hondurans being in Mexico illegally - which Mexican authorities have historically been stringent about, the caravan has not been stopped on its journey, and people from Mexican towns along the way have been helping the migrants.
The group is also planning to take "the Train of Death" in Arriaga in order to expedite the journey north, and several towns have provided buses to help the migrants along.
...children, women, and men, most of them from Honduras — have boldly crossed immigration checkpoints, military bases, and police in a desperate, sometimes chaotic march toward the United States. Despite their being in Mexico without authorization, no one has made any effort to stop them. -BuzzFeed
The municipality we’re at now is offering buses to get us to the next town. It’s been happening at several stops, I imagine they’re more interested in getting people out of their public squares. pic.twitter.com/6ay7Rn8fzI— Adolfo Flores (@aflores) March 30, 2018
A local at the town the caravan is arriving brought bread and ham for people. pic.twitter.com/xEybmayAT0— Adolfo Flores (@aflores) March 27, 2018
Here the migrants are seen boarding covered hopper freight railcars.
A video shows the migrants marching on the tracks and preparing to board the train in Arriaga.
In the train boarding video, a DJI Mavic Pro drone worth $1,000 to $1,300 USD was spotted. The march is depicted as a grassroots effort, but perhaps, there is some big money behind the movement.
BuzzFeed reporter Adolfo Flores has been embedded with the caravan, providing updates over Twitter:
On the move again. pic.twitter.com/JLhgTShshm— Adolfo Flores (@aflores) March 28, 2018
Everyone is in for the night. pic.twitter.com/9CA6NOTnNa— Adolfo Flores (@aflores) March 28, 2018
The caravan is on day five of its trek and finally made it to Oaxaca. pic.twitter.com/x7rqWrJh4z— Adolfo Flores (@aflores) March 29, 2018
This morning the caravan, anticipating a long day walk, got up at 4am to beat the sun. pic.twitter.com/Pk8URSSHP4— Adolfo Flores (@aflores) March 30, 2018
The caravan of Central Americans is getting ready to settle in for the day and make dinner. pic.twitter.com/BuSSJ9AiYL— Adolfo Flores (@aflores) March 30, 2018
About 80% of them are from Honduras. Many said they are fleeing poverty, but also political unrest and violence that followed the swearing in of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández after a highly contested election last year. The group often breaks into chants of “out with JOH.” They also chant “we aren't immigrants, we're international workers” and “the people united will never be defeated.”
Still, there are no guarantees on the route or assurances that once they reach the US border they'll be able to cross undetected or be allowed to stay under some type of protection like asylum.
Alex Mensing, another organizer with Pueblos Sin Fronteras, made that point clear to the migrants before the group started out. He also stressed that everyone is responsible for their own food, water, and payment for vans or buses. Still, it's far cheaper than being assaulted or falling into the hands of unscrupulous smugglers. -BuzzFeed
Here they come!