Migrant caravan re-forming to resume push north, uncertain if it can reach US
About 2,000 Central American migrants who avoided Mexican law enforcement at a border bridge and swam or floated across from Guatemala have decided to reconstitute their mass caravan and continue the push north toward the U.S.
Gathered at a park in the border city of Ciudad Hidalgo, the migrants voted, then marched to the bridge to urge those still there to cross the river and join them, The Associated Press reported on Saturday night.
"Let's all walk together!" and "Yes we can!" they cried, defying warnings to turn back this week from President Trump, who has sought to make immigration, border security and the human caravan from Central America priority campaign issues ahead of next month's midterm elections.
Rodrigo Abeja, a caravan leader, said that Sunday morning, they would move on toward Tapachula, Mexico, near the Guatemalan border.
"We don't yet know if we will make it to the (U.S.) border," he told AP, "but we are going to keep going as far as we can."
The group's decision to re-form capped a day in which Mexican authorities again refused mass entry to migrants on the bridge, instead accepting small groups for asylum processing and giving some visitor permits.
Mexico had sought to maintain order after a chaotic Friday in which some migrants rushed across the bridge only to be blocked by officers in riot gear.
Undaunted by the heavy police deployment on the bridge, many of the migrants made their way across to Mexico by crossing the Suchiate River, This, they accomplished by swimming, using ropes, or paying locals who charged modest sums to ferry people across the muddy expanse.
AP said immigration agents processed migrants in small groups and then bused them to an open-air, metal-roof fairground in Tapachular, where the Red Cross set up small tents.
But the pace was slow, conditions hot and uncomfortable, and patience wearing thin.
"Please let us in, we want to work!" AP said migrants were calling out at the main gate. Behind it, workers had erected riot barriers to channel people and maintain a semblance of order.
The caravan provoked a series of angry tweets and stern warnings from Trump early in the week.
"So as of this moment, I thank Mexico," Trump said Friday at an event in Scottsdale, Arizona. "I hope they continue. But as of this moment, I thank Mexico. If that doesn't work out, we're calling up the military — not the Guard."
"They're not coming into this country," Trump added, according to AP reports..
"The Mexican Government is fully engaged in finding a solution that encourages safe, secure, and orderly migration," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Saturday, "and both the United States and Mexico continue to work with Central American governments to address the economic, security, and governance drivers of illegal immigration."
Presidents Hernandez of Honduras and Jimmy Morales of Guatemala held an emergency meeting at a Guatemalan air base.
The leaders said an estimated 5,400 migrants had entered Guatemala since the caravan was announced a week ago, and about 2,000 Hondurans have returned voluntarily.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.