Trump’s soldiers brace for migrant caravan

November 14, 2018
Donald Trump
Donald Trump

IXTLÁN DEL RÍO, Mexico -- The caravan of Central American migrants trekking across Mexico toward the United States marked one month on the road Tuesday with a full day of walking and hitch-hiking and no celebrations.

The caravan, which currently has around 5,000 migrants, set out from the city of San Pedro Sula in Honduras on October 13, fleeing poverty and violence — and finding itself on the receiving end of a flood of anti-immigrant attacks from US President Donald Trump.

The migrants, who have traveled more than 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) so far, were planning to cover another 400 kilometers and spend the night in the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa — still some 1,800 kilometers from the border city of Tijuana, their destination.

Many said they saw little cause for celebration in reaching the one-month mark in their exhausting journey.

“We’re celebrating absolutely nothing. How could we have a party when we don’t have houses or jobs, when we’re tired and sick and worried about our future?” said Wilson Ramirez, a 60-year-old Honduran man.

On the other side of the border, US authorities closed down several lanes of traffic at two border crossings from Tijuana into California so military personnel could install cement barriers and barbed-wire fencing.

Trump has ordered the deployment of up to 9,000 troops to the border, calling the caravan an “invasion” and warning it was full of “gang members” and “hardened criminals.”

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced he would pay a visit Wednesday to the border city of McAllen, Texas.

Small groups of migrants that split off from the main caravan have already begun arriving in Tijuana, which sits across the border from San Diego, California. A group of 350 arrived Tuesday morning, many with small children.

Trump turned the migrant caravan into a hot-button issue ahead of last week’s US midterm elections, claiming — without providing evidence — it included “thugs” and “unknown Middle Easterners” who were about to “assault” the United States.

The migrants insist they are simply seeking a better future away from Central America’s “Northern Triangle” — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, poor countries where gang violence has fueled some of the highest murder rates in the world.

They have decided to take the longer but safer west-coast route, rather than travel the dangerous east-coast route, where Mexican gangs regularly extort, kidnap and kill Central Americans. In 2010, 72 migrants were massacred by suspected drug traffickers in the violent state of Tamaulipas, on the border with Texas.