The Latest: Caravan migrants reject Mexico plan on refuge
PIJIJIAPAN, Mexico (AP) — The Latest on the caravan of Central American migrants hoping to travel through Mexico to the U.S. (all times local):
Migrants traveling in a caravan through southern Mexico have rejected a proposal by President Enrique Pena Nieto that they apply for refugee status in the country and obtain benefits.
Coordinators of the caravan read out the president’s plan called “You are at home.” Migrants shouted “Gracias!” but “No, we’re heading north!”
Activist Irineo Mujica of the Pueblo sin Fronteras group is supporting the migrants in the caravan. He told the group that 80 percent of those who apply for protective status would be rejected and deported.
He asked who wanted a dialogue when they arrive in Mexico City, and a sea of hands shot up.
Mujica accused immigration officials of trying to scare them.
The vote took place Friday evening after the caravan arrived in the southern city of Arriaga, Chiapas state.
Mujica said the caravan would be on the move again Saturday at 3 a.m. toward Tapanatepec, about 29 miles (46 kilometers) away in Oaxaca state.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto is offering benefits to Central Americans in a migrant caravan traveling through the southern part of the country if they register with authorities and apply for refugee status.
Pena Nieto announced the launch of what’s called the “You are at home” plan Friday in address directed at migrants. He said migrants would be able to access medical attention, schooling and jobs.
To qualify they must be in the southern states of Oaxaca or Chiapas; the caravan is currently in the latter. Migrants must also apply for refuge with the National Migration Institute.
Pena Nieto said the plan “is only for those who fulfill Mexican laws and is a first step toward a permanent solution for those who obtain refugee status in Mexico.”
Mexican authorities are cracking down on smaller groups of migrants trying to catch up with the main caravan.
On Friday they detained a group of about 300 migrants who crossed the Guatemala-Mexico border at Ciudad Hidalgo and were walking along a highway to the city of Tapachula.
The main caravan of about 4,000 migrants left Tapachula on Monday and is now heading to Arriaga in the state of Chiapas.
An official from Mexico’s National Immigration Institute who was not authorized to be quoted by name said the group of 300 included Hondurans and Guatemalans who were detained because they entered the country without proper documents.
The migrants will be bussed to immigration processing centers for possible repatriation.
While migrants enter Mexico illegally almost every day, they usually take smugglers’ trucks or buses or walk at night to avoid detection.
The fact that the group was traveling openly in daylight suggests they were adopting the tactics of the caravan, which is large enough to move without much fear of detention.
However, it appears that smaller groups will now be picked off by immigration authorities.
Increasingly sick and facing a punishing 60-mile (100-kilometer) trek, members of the migrant caravan have left the southern Mexican city of Pijijiapan and are moving toward their next stop, Arriaga.
Yamileth Caldames is one of those making the arduous journey. She’s traveling with her 3- and 5-year-old daughters and her children’s father.
With what little money they still have, they plan to buy bus tickets most of the way to try to regain their strength.
Caldames says: “My blood pressure is bad.”
But if Mexican police catch them riding a bus, they could tell the driver to drop them off on the road.
Authorities are enforcing an obscure highway insurance rule in an apparent bid to make families like the Caldemeses walk as much of the way as possible.
UNICEF says some of the estimated 2,300 children traveling with the migrant caravan in southern Mexico are ill or suffering from dehydration.
The U.N. agency called Friday for the migrant children to be given protection and access to health care, clean water and other essentials. It says it’s working with Mexican authorities to provide drinking water and hygiene products.
UNICEF warns the long and difficult journey to the U.S. border has left the children “exposed to inclement weather, including dangerously hot temperatures, with limited access to proper shelter.”
The agency added that while many of the migrants are fleeing violence or poverty in their home countries, “the journey is long, uncertain and full of danger, including the risk of exploitation, violence and abuse.”
A severely dehydrated woman connected to an IV line sat on a plastic chair in the gazebo. Nearby, volunteer nurses took temperatures and treated coughs, handing out donated medicine as migrants lined up.
Two weeks of walking have taken a toll on a caravan of migrants now estimated at more than 4,000 as it slowly marches through Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state.
The migrants were planning what would be their most ambitious single-day trek since they crossed into Mexico, setting their sights for Friday on reaching Arriaga, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) up the coast.