Caravan migrants keep walking despite threat from Trump to shut the border: 'We have nothing'

US president has been stepping up anti-immigration rhetoric

Andrew Buncombe
Ejido Gustavo Lopez, Mexico
Friday 26 October 2018 19:44
Exhausted migrants slowly leaving caravan via Government buses back home from Mexico

Yonsi Marilu had not heard about the threat from Donald Trump to shut the US border, but the news made little difference to her plans.

When you have lived in a San Salvador neighbourhood where you can be killed by a gang simply for crossing into a rival’s turf, or where a gang will execute someone in front of family members to “increase the pain”, the rumoured clampdown from the US president is just another problem to overcome.

“We left because in El Salvador there is too much violence and no work,” she said, walking along the main highway between the cities of Pijijiapan and Arriaga.

More migrants are dropping out every day, but up to 5,000 people from Central America are still making their way northwards, hoping to enter the US and find a new life.

On Friday, it was reported that Mexican immigration authorities had raided a camp in Arriaga and several migrants were hurt. But for those who have been walking for 15 days or more, such incidents, along with Mr Trump’s proposal on the eve of the US midterm elections, add to the already present challenges of heat, exhaustion and poverty.

Jonathan Perales, from Honduras, works in construction in the city of San Pedro Sula. He said he earned the equivalent of $8.30 a day. It was not sufficient to take care of his wife and two young daughters, Emily, two, and four-year-old Monserrat, so he was pushing his youngsters along the road, hoping against the odds, they all could cross.

“We are going to keep going, and see what happens,” he said. “It’s the only option we have. If we get to the US, it will be better for the kids.”

Reports say Mr Trump is considering signing an executive order to shut the border even to asylum seekers, a notching-up of his anti-immigration rhetoric less than 14 days before the election.

He has already told defence secretary Jim Mattis to send 1,000 additional members of the national guard to the border, amid what he termed an “emergency situation”.

Whether Mr Trump intends to push ahead with the order, or if he believes the simple airing of the proposal will provide political gain, is unclear.

Yonsi Marilu, here in yellow baseball cap, hopes to start a new life in the US

“The administration is considering a wide range of administrative, legal and legislative options to address the Democrat-created crisis of mass illegal immigration,” a White House official told Fox News. “No decisions have been made at this time. Nor will we forecast to smugglers or caravans what precise strategies will or will not be deployed.”

On Friday, UNICEF said an estimated 2,300 children travelling with the migrant caravan were ill or suffering from dehydration. It called for children to be given special protection and said it was working with the Mexican authorities to provide drinking water and hygiene products.

But Ireneo Mujica, president of the group Pueblos Sin Fronteras, which has organised previous marches for migrants but not the current one, claimed the Mexican authorities were becoming frustrated with the migrants and trying to pressure them to leave.

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Mr Mujica, who was detained by officials 10 days ago while leading a demonstration in support of the Honduran migrants about to arrive in Mexico, told The Independent that members of the country’s immigration enforcement body carried out two raids in Arriaga.

“They beat up [the migrants] as people were fighting back,” he said. “They are doing this to break up the caravan and claim people are giving up.”

Aurora Vega, of the National Institute of Migration, said she was not aware of the raids. She added. “The institute does carry out operations every day. What we do know is that people have been abandoning the caravan because it is not safe and it leads nowhere.”

Ms Marilu, the young woman from San Salvador’s Ahuachapan neighbourhood, said she just wanted to work. She added: “We are going to keep going until God tells us no. He will provide.”

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