Migrant Caravan Pushes Forward to U.S. Through Mexico

Group swells to 7,000 strong as DHS warns of infiltration by 'transnational criminal' groups

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• October 22, 2018 4:15 pm


Thousands of Central American migrants have continued to push forward in their attempts to reach the United States, despite efforts by Mexico to halt their advance.

The migrants' caravan, which originated in Honduras nearly two weeks ago, has swelled in numbers and is now estimated to be 7,000 strong. Since beginning their journey, the migrants have traveled either by bus or on foot through Honduras, Guatemala, and now Mexico in an attempt use the latter country's northern border to infiltrate the U.S. illegally, according to The New York Times.

The majority of migrants say they are fleeing violence, political instability, and the poor economic conditions of their native homelands. Notwithstanding the hardships of their home nations, the migrants have shown a willingness to ignore and even flaunt the rule of law in their attempts to reach the U.S.

This was exhibited on Friday when the caravan, which had begun converging on the northern Guatemalan border, turned violent upon being denied entry into Mexico. Hurling rocks and other readily available objects, the migrants overwhelmed law enforcement and military personnel on both sides to storm the border and force their way into Mexican territory.

It is still unclear how many individuals or law enforcement officers were wounded by the migrant's rush to violence.

Although Mexico did eventually restore order and end the surge, a large portion of the migrants simply re-directed their efforts into crossing the Suchiate River, which separates the two nations. By swimming or floating across on makeshift rafts, the migrants were able to reach Tapachula, Mexico, a city approximately 23 miles north of the Guatemalan border, as of Sunday.  The migrants have begun setting up temporary encampments across the city as they await the rest of the caravan, according to the Mexican government and reporters on the scene.

The caravan's progress has drawn questions about Mexico's ability and willingness stop the migrants from advancing. Those questions have only grown as media outlets across the globe broadcast images showing Mexican law enforcement officers powerless to prevent the migrant's march through the country's cities and highways en route to the U.S.

Apart from the muted law enforcement response, the Mexican government has also attempted to stymie the caravan's progress by encouraging migrants to seek asylum and legal immigration status in Mexico. Those efforts, however, have proved unsuccessful as the majority of the migrants have decided to press onward in hopes of securing illegal entry into the U.S. through Mexico's northern border.

The approaching caravan has set off alarm bells within the Trump administration amid fears that subversive elements were using the migrants to further a criminal agenda.

The majority of the new additions to the caravan in Mexico are migrants who previously entered the U.S. illegally but were deported, The Washington Post reported. It remains unclear how many of the caravan's new additions were previously deported from the U.S. for committing violent crimes.

Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, warned on Sunday of the possibility that transnational gangs and drug cartels had infiltrated the caravan.

"While we closely monitor the caravan crisis, we must remain mindful of the transnational criminal organizations and other criminals that prey on the vulnerabilities of those undertaking the irregular migration journey," Nielsen said. "We shall work with our partners in the region to investigate and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law all who seek to encourage and profit from irregular migration."

On Monday, President Donald Trump took to social media to echo the secretary's concerns and announce he alerted the U.S. military and border patrol to ensure the caravan did not enter the U.S.

"Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States. Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in," the president wrote. "I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National [Emergency]. Must change laws!"

The Trump administration has further announced it will make good on a promise to cut foreign aid to countries, like Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, that failed to prevent their citizens from joining the caravan and marching towards the U.S.