A caravan of over 3000 Central Americans attempting to cross the Suchiate river that divides Mexico and Guatemala was met by the Mexican National Guard on Monday who used teargas to impede them from crossing.
Mexico shut a border crossing bridge on the weekend, consequently forcing many members of the caravan to wade through the river in order to cross.
Brayan Hernández, a 26-year old member of the caravan travelling his 1-year old daughter told NPR, “It’s more scary (to cross the river) when you’re with your child but we don’t have any other option. I never expected Mexico to react like this. It makes me angry. We didn’t attack them.”
On Friday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) promised the asylum seekers that “we have more than 4000 jobs available at the southern border.” More than 1000 members of the caravan reportedly accepted this offer and were transported to processing centres in the southern states of Chiapas and Tabasco.
However, on Sunday the Mexican government released a statement saying, “once the particular migratory condition is revised, the assisted return to their countries of origin will proceed should the situation merit it.”
Various rights groups as well as asylum seekers in the caravan have criticised this move as an attempt to deport them to their home countries.
The caravan, which includes women and children, began in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula on January 15, one of the most dangerous cities in the region. Mexican newspaper El Universal quoted a Honduran member of the caravan who said,”they’re deceiving us, they’re deporting those who agree to be registered.”
A group of leaders of the caravan penned a letter to López Obrador, requesting that “all the members of the caravan receive the permission to move freely through Mexican territory. We are committed to you and your government to maintain order and discipline in the places where we transit.”
AMLO BOWS TO TRUMP
After beginning his administration with a policy that looked to welcome Central Americans, López Obrador quickly buckled under the threat of tariffs from U.S. President Donald Trump and hardened his immigration policy.
Under Trump’s “Migrant Protection Protocols,” commonly referred to as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, that came into force in January 2019, any asylum seeker that arrives at the U.S.-Mexico border is returned to Mexico to await the result of their immigration proceeding.
Since accepting the policy, Mexico has at various times sent thousands of members of the National Guard to its southern border and significantly reduced the number of arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border.
AMLO has come under fierce criticism for essentially turning Mexico into a “Safe Third Country” despite not having signed the type of deal that the U.S. has with Guatemala, that officially designates that country as so.
Under Guatemala’s deal with the U.S., also accepted under a Trump threat of tariffs, Guatemala agreed to allow the U.S. to send asylum seekers that arrive at the U.S. border to its territory to await the proceedings of their case if they had previously passed through Guatemala on their journey.
Trump has referred to previous caravans as an “invasion,” using them as political justification to increase security at the border and apply pressure on Central American governments to harden their positions on asylum seekers.