Growing caravan of migrants pushes deeper into Mexico

Thousands flee violence in Honduras in caravan of migrants

TAPACHULA, Mexico (AP) — Thousands of Honduran migrants hoping to reach the U.S. stretched out on rain-soaked sidewalks, benches and public plazas in the southern Mexico city of Tapachula, worn down by another day’s march under a blazing sun.

Keeping together for strength and safety in numbers, some huddled under a metal roof in the city's main plaza Sunday night. Others lay exhausted in the open air, with only thin sheets of plastic to protect them from ground soggy from an intense evening shower. Some didn't even have a bit of plastic yet.

"We are going to sleep here in the street, because we have nothing else," said Jose Mejia, 42, a father of four from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula. "We have to sleep on the sidewalk, and tomorrow wake up and keep walking. We'll get a piece of plastic to cover ourselves if it rains again."

A Central American migrant making their way to the U.S. in a large caravan carries his son after arriving in Tapachula, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. The man said a truck driver gave them a free ride to the city. A growing caravan of Honduran migrants streamed through southern Mexico on Sunday heading toward the United States, after making an end-run around Mexican agents who briefly blocked them at the Guatemalan border. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
A Central American migrant making their way to the U.S. in a large caravan carries his son after arriving in Tapachula, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. The man said a truck driver gave them a free ride to the city. A growing caravan of Honduran migrants streamed through southern Mexico on Sunday heading toward the United States, after making an end-run around Mexican agents who briefly blocked them at the Guatemalan border. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo) (AP)

Adela Echeverria, 52, a single mother of three, teared up as she spoke about her plight.

"One of my companions went to look for some plastic," she said. "We are used to sleeping like this, taking care of each other. We don't want to be separated."

Central American migrants making their way to the U.S. in a large caravan rest under a statue of Mexico's first Indian president Benito Juarez in Tapachula, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. A growing caravan of Honduran migrants streamed through southern Mexico on Sunday heading toward the United States, after making an end-run around Mexican agents who briefly blocked them at the Guatemalan border. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Central American migrants making their way to the U.S. in a large caravan rest under a statue of Mexico's first Indian president Benito Juarez in Tapachula, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. A growing caravan of Honduran migrants streamed through southern Mexico on Sunday heading toward the United States, after making an end-run around Mexican agents who briefly blocked them at the Guatemalan border. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo) (AP)

The group’s advance has drawn strong criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump, who lashed out again Sunday at the Democratic Party over what he apparently sees as a winning issue for Republicans a little over two weeks ahead of midterm elections.

After blaming the Democrats for "weak laws" on immigration a few days earlier, Trump said via Twitter: "The Caravans are a disgrace to the Democrat party. Change the immigration laws NOW!"

Trump said Monday the U.S. would begin “cutting off, or substantially reducing” aid to three Central American nations over a migrant caravan heading to the U.S. southern border.

Trump tweeted: "Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S."

The three countries received a combined more than $500 million in funding from the U.S. in fiscal year 2017, though it was not immediately clear how much Trump is seeking to cut.

The Monday morning tweets marked the latest escalation by the president, who is seeking to re-inject immigration politics into the national conversation in the closing weeks of the midterm elections.

On a three-day campaign swing to Western states last week, Trump raised alarm over thousands of migrants traveling through Mexico to the U.S. and threatened to seal off the U.S.-Mexico border if they weren't stopped.

As the migrants continued their northward march about 900 miles from the U.S. border, Trump tweeted that, "Sadly, it looks like Mexico's Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan.

He added: "I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy." White House officials could not immediately provide details.

A Pentagon spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, said the Pentagon has received no new orders to provide troops for border security.

A Central American migrant carrying a child walks with a caravan making its way to the U.S., upon arrival to Tapachula, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. Despite Mexican efforts to stop them at the Guatemala-Mexico border, about 5,000 Central American migrants resumed their advance toward the U.S. border Sunday in southern Mexico. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
A Central American migrant carrying a child walks with a caravan making its way to the U.S., upon arrival to Tapachula, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. Despite Mexican efforts to stop them at the Guatemala-Mexico border, about 5,000 Central American migrants resumed their advance toward the U.S. border Sunday in southern Mexico. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo) (AP)

In another tweet, he said the migrants would not be allowed into the United States.

Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador suggested Sunday that the United States, Canada and Mexico work out a joint plan for funding development in the poor areas of Central America and southern Mexico.

"In this way we confront the phenomenon of migration, because he who leaves his town does not leave for pleasure but out of necessity," said Lopez Obrador, who takes office Dec. 1.

Central American migrants making their way to the U.S. in a large caravan rest lying at the central park in Tapachula, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. Despite Mexican efforts to stop them at the Guatemala-Mexico border, about 5,000 Central American migrants resumed their advance toward the U.S. border Sunday in southern Mexico. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Central American migrants making their way to the U.S. in a large caravan rest lying at the central park in Tapachula, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. Despite Mexican efforts to stop them at the Guatemala-Mexico border, about 5,000 Central American migrants resumed their advance toward the U.S. border Sunday in southern Mexico. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo) (AP)

The migrant caravan, which started out more than a week ago with less than 200 participants, has drawn additional people along the way and it swelled to an estimated 5,000 Sunday after many migrants found ways to cross from Guatemala into southern Mexico as police blocked the official crossing point.

Later in the day, authorities in Guatemala said another group of about 1,000 migrants had entered that country from Honduras.

Central American migrants making their way to the U.S. arrive by foot to Tapachula, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. Despite Mexican efforts to stop them at the Guatemala-Mexico border, about 5,000 Central American migrants resumed their advance toward the U.S. border Sunday in southern Mexico. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Central American migrants making their way to the U.S. arrive by foot to Tapachula, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. Despite Mexican efforts to stop them at the Guatemala-Mexico border, about 5,000 Central American migrants resumed their advance toward the U.S. border Sunday in southern Mexico. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo) (AP)

In interviews along the journey, migrants have said they are fleeing widespread violence, poverty and corruption in Honduras. The caravan is unlike previous mass migrations for its unprecedented large numbers and because it largely began spontaneously through word of mouth.

Migrants received help Sunday from sympathetic Mexicans who offered food, water and clothing. Hundreds of locals driving pickups, vans and cargo trucks stopped to let them clamber aboard.

Civil defense officials for Mexico's southern state of Chiapas said they had offered to take the migrants by bus to a shelter set up by immigration officials about 5 miles (7 kilometers) outside Tapachula, but the migrants refused, fearing that once they boarded the buses they would be deported.

Central American migrants making their way to the U.S. arrive by foot to Tapachula, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. Despite Mexican efforts to stop them at the Guatemala-Mexico border, about 5,000 Central American migrants resumed their advance toward the U.S. border Sunday in southern Mexico. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Central American migrants making their way to the U.S. arrive by foot to Tapachula, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. Despite Mexican efforts to stop them at the Guatemala-Mexico border, about 5,000 Central American migrants resumed their advance toward the U.S. border Sunday in southern Mexico. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo) (AP)

Ulises Garcia, a Red Cross official, said some migrants with injuries from their hard trek refused to be taken to clinics or hospitals, because they didn't want to leave the caravan.

"We have had people who have ankle or shoulder injuries, from falls during the trip, and even though we have offered to take them somewhere where they can get better care, they have refused, because they fear they'll be detained and deported," Garcia said. "They want to continue on their way."

Central American migrants making their way to the U.S. in a large caravan cling to the trucks of drivers who offered them free rides, as they arrive to Tapachula, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. Despite Mexican efforts to stop them at the Guatemala-Mexico border, about 5,000 Central American migrants resumed their advance toward the U.S. border Sunday in southern Mexico. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Central American migrants making their way to the U.S. in a large caravan cling to the trucks of drivers who offered them free rides, as they arrive to Tapachula, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. Despite Mexican efforts to stop them at the Guatemala-Mexico border, about 5,000 Central American migrants resumed their advance toward the U.S. border Sunday in southern Mexico. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo) (AP)

Garcia said he had seen cases of swollen, lacerated and infected feet. But "they are going to continue walking, and their feet won't heel as long as they keep walking," he said.

Jesus Valdivia, of Tuxtla Chico, Mexico, was one of the many who pulled his pickup truck over to let 10 or even 20 migrants hop in at a time, sometimes causing vehicles' springs to groan under the weight.

A Honduran migrant shows his blistered feet covered in talcum powder in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. Despite Mexican efforts to stop them at the border, about 5,000 Central American migrants resumed their advance by foot toward the U.S. border early Sunday in southern Mexico. (AP Photo/Oliver de Ros)
A Honduran migrant shows his blistered feet covered in talcum powder in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. Despite Mexican efforts to stop them at the border, about 5,000 Central American migrants resumed their advance by foot toward the U.S. border early Sunday in southern Mexico. (AP Photo/Oliver de Ros) (AP)

"You have to help the next person. Today it's for them, tomorrow for us," Valdivia said, adding that he was getting a valuable gift from those he helped: "From them we learn to value what they do not have."

Passing freight trucks were quickly boarded by dozens of migrants, and straining tuk-tuks carried as many as a half-dozen.

Federal police stand guard along the road being used by a U.S.-bound, large caravan of Central American migrants walking from Ciudad Hidalgo toward Tapachula, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. Officers who would not identify themselves say their instructions are to maintain the flow of traffic, not to stop the caravan. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Federal police stand guard along the road being used by a U.S.-bound, large caravan of Central American migrants walking from Ciudad Hidalgo toward Tapachula, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. Officers who would not identify themselves say their instructions are to maintain the flow of traffic, not to stop the caravan. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo) (AP)

Brenda Sanchez of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, who rode in Valdivia’s truck with three nephews ages 10, 11 and 19, expressed gratitude to “God and the Mexicans who have helped us.”

Numbers from the Department of Homeland Security, show a long-term trend towards fewer apprehensions near the Southwest border.
Numbers from the Department of Homeland Security, show a long-term trend towards fewer apprehensions near the Southwest border. (AP)

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