A new migrant caravan begins in southern Mexico

As Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador opens negotiations on immigration and other issues with his North American counterparts in Washington, DC, a new caravan of migrants has left the southern Mexican city of Tapachula.

About 2,000 mostly Central American and Haitian migrants make up the latest sampled caravan.

Alex Leyva of Honduras said he was trying to travel north in a caravan for the second time. The first time he left with another caravan was on October 23, but he fell ill and had to leave. Mexican immigration agents returned him to Tapachula where he had already begun the process of applying for asylum in Mexico.

“My country is in the worst economic, criminal, hungry situation,” Leyva said. “There are no studies, no education for the children. That’s why my wife and I decided to try to achieve our goal” of getting a better life.

The earlier caravan Leyva traveled with was in southern Veracruz state, but declined to several hundred migrants, down from a high point of about 4,000.

Luis García Villagran, of the Center for Human Dignity, said the migrants require documents that enable them to be in all of Mexico. The Mexican government relied on a strategy of containing migrants in the southernmost part of the country to alleviate pressure at the U.S. border.

But those states are the poorest and there is much more opportunity to find work in the northern states.

García Villagran said that even the migrants who received humanitarian visas that should allow them to travel in Mexico were arrested by immigration agents and returned to Tapachula.

Migrants confined to Tapachula near the Guatemalan border have grown increasingly frustrated by the slow processing of their asylum cases. They complain that they cannot find a job that would allow them to support their families.

The caravans began several years ago as a way for migrants who did not have the money to pay smugglers to take advantage of security in numbers as they moved to the U.S. border. However, more recently Guatemala and Mexico have become more aggressive in quickly dismantling the mobile homes with security forces.

The declining caravan in Veracruz was the first to advance so far in Mexico in the past two years, but the tense conditions of the trip and the government’s proposals to regulate the status of migrants have made the majority leave.

López Obrador called to address migration in the region as one of his priorities for Thursday’s North American Leaders Summit. He pressured the Biden administration to invest in expanding a tree planting program that pays farmers to plant certain types of trees on their land. The money allows the rural poor to stay on their land rather than feel economic pressure to migrate, he says.

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