HUIXTLA – More than 2,000 mostly Central American migrants walked along a highway in southern Mexico toward the town of Huixtla Monday where security forces had deployed, possibly signaling that authorities would soon try to break up the group.
About 100 National Guard, soldiers and immigration agents waited just outside Huixtla. Authorities have dissolved other migrant groups in the area during other recent attempts.
The migrants set out early Saturday from Tapachula, near the Guatemala border, where thousands of migrants have spent months waiting for asylum applications or other visas that would allow them to transit Mexico. The government has used a containment strategy with a varying degree of success to try to keep migrants in the south and far from the U.S. border.
Large groups of migrants attempted to walk out of Tapachula in recent months after growing frustrated with the wait and their inability to find work. Those groups were largely made up of Haitians, who were notably absent from the larger group that left Saturday. Thousands of Haitians made it to the U.S. border in September, many of whom were later deported to their homeland.
The latest group is composed mostly of Central Americans, many with young children.
They started walking early Monday from Huehuetan before the heat of the day set in.
“We’re not hurting anyone,” said Maryin Juárez, a Nicaraguan college student travelling with her uncle and cousin. She was confident she could avoid detention like they had at a roadblock over the weekend. In that case, she lost her shoes scrambling away from authorities.
Juárez, like so many others in Tapachula, had been waiting in Tapachula to apply for asylum for two months, but the earliest appointment she was offered was next January. “Our little bit of money (was spent) there,” she said.
She said she was fleeing the repression unleashed by Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega against students who had marched against his government in April 2018.
“We don’t want problems with anyone,” said Anthony Beltrández, a Cuban who left his country in 2018 for Uruguay and had been waiting for 1 ½ months in Tapachula since arriving in Mexico. He wanted documents that would allow him to reach the U.S. border. “We want to do everything peacefully.”
In August, National Guardsmen and immigration agents were criticized for using excessive force to break up a smaller group of migrants.
No group has come close to the size of migrant caravans that crossed Mexico in 2018 and 2019. Large efforts that started in Honduras have been broken up by authorities in Guatemala before reaching Mexico.