published 2020-01-16 15:50:40 by Louis Casiano
Mexico said it will block hundreds of mostly Honduran migrants hoping to reach the United States as officials there continue to crack down on the number of immigrants amid pressure from the Trump administration.
The country’s interior ministry said it would not grant tourist visas and would check the status of each migrant, but would welcome those interested in staying there.
“Mexico is not only a transit country… In no way we have transit visas or safe passage,” said Mexico’s Interior Minister Olga Sánchez Cordero, who warned that the migrants would be met by special operations and immigration agents, the BBC reported.
She told journalists that an estimated 600 migrants had left Honduras on Wednesday. Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said Mexico Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard told him that Mexico will not let a migrant caravan pass and would “do everything in their powers to stop the group.”
On Thursday, Honduran authorities fired tear gas after people tried crossing into Guatemala without going through checks.
Many migrants set out Wednesday from San Pedro Sula in Honduras, one of Central America’s most violent cities, in the hope of forming a caravan similar to the ones that overwhelmed American border agents in 2018. Caravans have tended to attract migrants with fewer resources — not enough money to pay a smuggler, for example — and offer a greater level of security than traveling alone or in small groups.
Walter Martinez, 18, joined the group in San Pedro Sula, figuring there would be safety in numbers. His family paid a smuggler when he migrated illegally to the U.S. for the first time five years ago. He was deported from Houston, Texas, in November.
“The only thing motivating me is seeing my family,” he said.
President Trump has pressured Central American leaders to stop the flow of migrants before they reach the U.S.-Mexico border, where many are applying for asylum.
In the Guatemalan town of Morales, authorities were checking documents at a roadblock and police officers were accompanied by four agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The Department of Homeland Security has deployed dozens of agents to act as “advisers” to the national police and immigration officials there.
Trump has made border security a top priority. Border officials were overwhelmed in 2018 when thousands of migrants formed caravans to flee endemic poverty and violence in their countries. In an effort to enlist help from other countries, particularly Mexico, he threatened to impose tariffs on Mexican imports.
In response, Mexico expanded the U.S. Migrant Protection Protocols program, known as “Remain in Mexico,” which has led to 55,000 asylum seekers waiting out their cases in Mexico. The country deployed its national guard to help prevent migrants making their way through.
If asylum seekers don’t want to await the process in Mexico, they have the option of being sent to another country in the region they are fleeing to apply for protection there.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.