Mon | Jan 21, 2019

Caravan at Mexico-Guatemala border shrinks as migrants cross

Published:Sunday | October 21, 2018 | 12:00 AM
A Guatemalan police officer gives a migrant child some food as the migrants bound for the U.S.-Mexico border wait on a bridge that stretches over the Suchiate River, connecting Guatemala and Mexico, yesterday.


A United States-bound caravan that once totalled more than 3,000 Central American migrants looked to be about a third that size yesterday morning, when its remaining members woke up on a bridge that divides the borders of Guatemala and Mexico and waited to get past a crossing guarded by hundreds of Mexican federal police.

Hundreds of migrants have already crossed, some legally, some not. Others left their spots on the bridge to go to a nearby Guatemalan town for food. It's unclear whether any have simply turned back.

The group had burst through a Guatemalan border fence last Friday and rushed on to the bridge over the Suchiate River, defying officials' entreaties for an orderly crossing and US President Donald Trump's threats of retaliation.

They were met by a wall of police with riot shields, and only about 50 migrants managed to push their way through before officers unleashed pepper spray. The rest retreated, joining the sea of people in limbo between both countries.

At an event in Scottsdale, Arizona on Friday, the US president made it clear to Mexico that he is monitoring its response.

"So as of this moment, I thank Mexico. I hope they continue. But as of this moment, I thank Mexico," he said. "If that doesn't work out, we're calling up the military - not the Guard."

He also warned the migrants that they should turn back.

"They're not coming into this country," he said.

On Friday, Mexican police and immigration agents began letting small groups of 10, 20 or 30 people through the gates at a time if they wanted to apply for refugee status. Once they filed a claim, they were given the option to go to a shelter to spend the night.

Other migrants, tired of waiting, jumped off the bridge into the river. Some organised a rope brigade to ford its muddy waters or floated across on rafts operated by local residents who usually charge a dollar or two to make the crossing.

Some women and children made their way towards the front of the caravan yesterday, while the men were at the back.

They have also moved about 30 feet (9 meters) back from the gate that separates them from Mexican police to establish a buffer zone.