Isabel Mateos et al., Associated Press, October 12, 2019
Mexican officials broke up a caravan of around 2,000 migrants that had set out from southern Mexico Saturday in the hopes of reaching the United States, amid increasing difficulty obtaining permission to pass through Mexico.
Many of the migrants who departed from Tapachula, Chiapas early in the morning had been held up in this city just north of Guatemala for weeks or months, awaiting residency or transit papers from Mexican authorities. The migrants are originally from Central America, Africa and the Caribbean.
“I want to pass through Mexico, I don’t want to live here,” said Amado Ramirez, a migrant from Honduras who said he had been living on the streets of Tapachula with his young children and wife, hoping for a transit visa from Mexican officials. “We’re at a standstill.”
The group trudged about 24 miles ( 40 kilometers) northwest along a highway under the supervision of human rights officials before federal police and national guardsmen blocked their path.
An Associated Press photographer saw hundreds of men, women and children running to escape the security forces encircling them in Huixtla, Chiapas.
They were rounded up and placed in vans. Officials refused to say where they were transporting the migrants.
Hundreds of African migrants, in particular, have been stuck for months in Tapachula, where they say immigration authorities have stalled on giving them residency or transit papers. Almost all of them want to seek asylum in the United States, rather than stay in Mexico.
The migrants have engaged in scuffles with police at the Tapachula immigration offices in recent weeks. Mexico says they can stay in southern Mexico, or leave by the southern border, but the migrants want documents that will allow them to reach the northern border.
Under pressure from the U.S., Mexico has practically stopped issuing visas for migrants to pass through the country. Migrants marooned in Tapachula faced the option of turning back across Mexico’s southern border, trekking north clandestinely or applying for asylum in Mexico — a country that many feel is unsafe or unattractive because of language and cultural differences.