New caravan of Honduran migrants makes first border crossing
The fate that awaits the migrants when they reach the US border is uncertain.
The latest caravan of Honduran migrants hoping to reach the US has crossed peacefully into Guatemala, under the watchful eyes of about 200 Guatemalan police and soldiers.
About 500 people, including dozens of children, lined up to show their documents to a first line of unarmed security personnel at the Agua Caliente border crossing on Tuesday night.
Riot police formed a second line to contain any possible disturbance.
Edilberto Hernandez, a former police officer, stood with his wife and four children to cross into Guatemala. After losing his job, he could find only low-paid construction work, and he decided to travel with his whole family to the United States.
“We are going out of necessity, because of the poverty,” Mr Hernandez said.
The fate that awaits them at the Mexico-US border is uncertain.
The previous caravans that were seized upon last year by US President Donald Trump in the run-up to the 2018 midterm election have quietly dwindled, with many having gone home to Central America or put down roots in Mexico.
Despite the hard-line immigration rhetoric by the Trump administration, many others — nearly half, according to US Border Patrol arrest records — have sought to enter the US illegally.
About 6,000 Central Americans reached Tijuana in November amid conflict on both sides of the border over their presence in this Mexican city across from San Diego.
As of Monday, fewer than 700 migrants remained at a former outdoor concert venue in Tijuana that the Mexican government set up as a shelter to house the immigrants.
The US Border Patrol has made about 2,600 caravan-related arrests in its San Diego sector, spokesman Theron Francisco said, indicating that nearly half have crossed into the US illegally.
Families are typically released with a notice to appear in immigration court.
Mexican officials say about 1,300 caravan members have returned to Central America. Mexico has issued humanitarian visas to about 2,900 others, many of whom are now working legally there with visas.
Francis Lopez is among the migrants who have stayed in Mexico. The former clothing factory worker said he and his wife made a snap decision to leave their home in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula when the caravan left in October.
He had hoped to join a relative in Florida but is having second thoughts about seeking asylum after an American attorney told him he had a weak case and may be detained until a judge orders him deported.
“It’s a loss of time, a loss of time that you can never recover,” Mr Lopez said.
Javier Diaz of El Salvador, who is working as a taxi driver in Tijuana on a visa, said he had hoped to reach the United States to make enough money to support his wife and five children in El Salvador but Mexico was better than going home.
“If Mexico deports me today, I will be in Mexico again tomorrow,” Mr Diaz said. “If I can go to the United States, better.”
The diminished presence of the migrants in Tijuana came as hundreds of Hondurans left the violent city of San Pedro Sula this week in a new caravan hoping to reach the United States or Mexico.
News of this latest trek north came as Mr Trump has been working to convince the American public that there is a “crisis” at the southern border to justify construction of his long-promised border wall.
Mr Trump’s demand for billions of dollars to build the wall has resulted in a stand-off with Congress that has forced a partial government shutdown.
“A big new Caravan is heading up to our Southern Border from Honduras. Tell Nancy and Chuck that a drone flying around will not stop them. Only a Wall will work,” Mr Trump tweeted on Tuesday, referring to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer.
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