Shouts of “Fuera JOH”, (Out with JOH) rang frequently in the air as hundreds of refugees from Honduras took part in the annual migrant caravan that seeks to help them find asylum, as well as raise awareness about the dangers they face while travelling through Mexico. The slogans referred to the U.S-backed right-wing of Honduras, President Juan Orlando Hernández, who began his second term last year after an election widely considered to be rigged. Since then, political repression has intensified, forcing thousands to flee the country. Honduras is also plagued by a high crime rate and one of the highest rates of murder in the world.
The caravan has been organized each year around Easter since 2010 with help from Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People without Borders). An estimated 10,000 migrants are killed or disappear in Mexico annually. Over $100 million has been paid by the U.S State Department to the Mexican government to crack down on Central American migrants.
Faced with threats ranging from murder to deportation, the migrants traveled together in a large group for their security. Starting from March 25, this year’s caravan saw more than 1,000 refugees from Central American states - predominantly from Honduras but also from El Salvador and Guatemala - make the 2,000 mile journey. While most hoped for a residency in Mexico, less than 100 of them planned to head further north to seek asylum in the U.S, according to Mexico director of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, Irineo Mujica, one of the caravan's organizers.
The first group of migrants started receiving documents from Mexican immigration authorities last week. Those seeking a Mexican residency visa on humanitarian grounds got their initial papers while those heading to the U.S received a 20-day permit to transit Mexico enroute to the U.S, CBS reported. Most of the participants began to disperse after that or would be continuing the journey alone or in small groups, according to a statement by the Mexican government, which claimed that 230 out of the 465 migrants who had asked for transit visas had received them. Another 168 were “likely to get some sort of visa to stay in Mexico,” the Star Tribune reported.
After Fox News wrongly reported that 1,200 migrants were heading towards the U.S, President Donald Trump announced last week that soldiers from the National Guard would be deployed at the border. Asking which of those women and children Trump was afraid of, Mujica said, "All of the women, children come fleeing violence. These children are not soldiers."
Blaming the Mexican government for permitting the caravan to travel through the country, Donald Trump had tweeted, "Mexico has the absolute power not to let these large "Caravans" of people enter their country. They must stop them at their Northern Border, which they can do because their border laws work, not allow them to pass through into our country, which has no effective border laws."
After the Mexican government announced that the caravan was being disbanded, Trump claimed credit for it, which drew a sharp response from Mexican Foreign Minister, Luis Videgaray, who tweeted on last Tuesday, “Members of the.. caravan dispersed gradually on their own accord. Mexican immigration policy is exercised in a sovereign manner and ...not from external pressures or threats.”
Amid the sniping between governments, the members of the caravan kept getting threats. In a Facebook post, Pueblo Sin Fronteras said that the organization and the refugee families “are receiving violent and graphic threats from dozens of US-based racist groups; we have also received word that we are being surveilled on social media by Trump’s law enforcement in order to intimidate our nonviolent movement. We will not be cowed by Trump’s efforts to isolate or intimidate us, just as we will not be cowed by the violence and harassment used against political organizers by US-armed and US-funded governments in Honduras and Mexico.”