TAPACHULA, Mexico — Thousands of Central American migrants hoping to reach the U.S. were deciding Monday whether to rest in a southern Mexico town or resume their arduous walk through Mexico. President Donald Trump spoke out on Twitter, threatening sanctions on their governments and saying he had alerted border patrol and the U.S. military.
After blaming the Democrats for “weak laws” on immigration a few days earlier, Trump said on Twitter on Monday: “Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws!”
He apparently sees the caravan as a winning issue for Republicans a little over two weeks ahead of midterm elections.
In another tweet, he blamed Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador for not stopping people from leaving their countries.
“We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them,” he wrote.
A team of journalists traveling with the caravan for more than a week has spoken with Hondurans, Guatemalans and Salvadorans, but has not met any Middle Easterners of the sort Trump suggested were “mixed in” with the Central American migrants.
It was clear though that more migrants were continuing to join the caravan.
Jose Anibal Rivera, 52, an unemployed security guard from San Pedro Sula, crossed into Mexico by raft Sunday and walked up to Tapachula from Ciudad Hidalgo to join the caravan.
“There are like 500 more people behind me,” he said.
He vowed to reach the U.S. border, still nearly 2,000 road miles away at its closest point.
“Anything that happens, even if they kill me, is better than going back to Honduras,” he said.
Ana Luisa Espana, a clothes washer and ironer from Chiquimula, Guatemala, joined the caravan as she saw it pass through Guatemala.
‘The goal is to reach the (U.S.) border,” she said. “We only want to work and if a job turns up in Mexico, I would do it. We would do anything, except bad things.”
Isis Ramirez, 32, a mother of three from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, awoke Monday morning on a square of sodden cardboard in Tapachula’s town square, her swollen feet stretched out in front of her, wrapped in bandages applied by paramedics.
Blisters had formed on her feet from the cheap plastic sandals she wears.
“There are more sick people. It’s better that we rest today,” she said.
Nearby, Julio Asturias, 27, a migrant from San Juan, El Salvador, charged his cellphone from a dangling wire.
“I want to return to Arizona, and when I heard that the caravan was passing, I joined it,” he said.
He said he was deported a couple of months ago after police pulled him over for a burned-out tail light.
On Sunday, thousands of migrants stretched out on rain-soaked sidewalks, benches and public plazas in 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.”
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.
The migrant caravan, which started out more than a week ago with fewer than 200 participants, has drawn additional people along the way and it swelled to an estimated 5,000 on 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.
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