KTEP - El Paso, Texas

Central American Migrants Stalled In Southern Mexico

Apr 4, 2018
Originally published on April 5, 2018 10:50 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And we start in Mexico, where a caravan of hundreds of migrants from Central America has stalled. The migrants had banded together for safety as they tried to make their way north.

President Trump has been watching their progress. He has threatened cuts in foreign aid, also threatened to send the U.S. military to the border if the migrants aren't turned back by Mexico. As of now, they are camped out in a park in the southern state of Oaxaca, and NPR's Carrie Kahn is there and joins us now. Hey, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: OK, start with the state of this caravan because last night, Mexican officials were claiming it had been disbanded. Is that the case? What are you seeing?

KAHN: Clearly, it's not disbanded. Like you said, I'm at a park. It's more like a recreational area with soccer fields. There are some swings and play structures for kids. And there's a pool, but it just has stagnant dirty water in there.

And there are hundreds of people here, Mary Louise. It's hard to say exactly how many. It's not like they're driving in a caravan of cars. They met up in the southern border city of Tapachula, Chiapas and have been traveling all together by foot, buses, any way they can to get here. And they stopped here at this park once Trump's tweet started gaining attention for them.

And here in the park, it's just a difficult scene. It smells terrible. People have put up towels, sheets, clothes, whatever they can to make a little lean-to for some shade to get out of the hot sun. Right now, I'm sitting under a tree by a place where people have come to try and bathe. It's just a slab of concrete, and they have buckets of water, and they're doing the best they can to wash themselves. And it's not a pleasant situation here.

KELLY: And what are they saying they - as you speak to them, what are their plans? Where are they trying to get to next?

KAHN: They say the next stop is the central Mexican town of Puebla, which is not far from Mexico City in the center of the country. And there, the organizers have brought in specialists and lawyers. They say that they're going to give them workshops and talk about their rights.

And here, let me play you a little bit of an interview I did. I talked to one organizer. His name is Irineo Mujica, and I asked him, what is the ultimate goal of the caravan?

IRINEO MUJICA: We're fighting for the right to migrate. We're fighting for asylum. We fight to leave without fear. We fight for a place for our families to be able to flourish without being afraid that they're going to be gunned down.

KAHN: Most of these people are fleeing from very violent situations in El Salvador and Honduras - that's what he's referring to. From Puebla, he says the migrants are all on their own then, and they will decide where they want to go and how they're going to get there.

KELLY: And that was the next thing I was going to ask you because we're hearing the president has been tweeting that this caravan is headed for the U.S. border. You're saying their first stop is, let's get to Pueblo, and then we'll see. They may head in different directions.

KAHN: Right. I've talked to so many people, and all had different plans, whether it was to stay in Mexico - to ask for asylum or refugee status here in Mexico - or to try and ask for asylum in the U.S. or try and sneak in unauthorized into the U.S.

KELLY: Meanwhile, I gather you are seeing Mexican officials who are handing some of these migrants temporary visas that will help them as they travel north. What's going on?

KAHN: Right. Mexican immigration officials showed up today, just like they did yesterday, and they take down people's names and they're checking their IDs, and then they're coming back and handing them special permissions, which will give them 20 to 30 days - some got 30 - to leave the country or to show up at immigration offices and tell authorities what they want to do. Do they want to stay in the country? Do they want to ask for asylum, refugee status here, or do they want to take that time to get out of the country?

And I've heard from a lot of people a lot of different things that they want to do with it. But it's interesting, a lot of people all told me the same thing. They wanted a message to Donald Trump. They said they hope that God will touch his heart and he will come to see that they're all in pain here, and they need help and have no mean to harm anyone in the U.S. They just want peace and to get out of their violent countries.

KELLY: Thanks so much, Carrie.

KAHN: You're welcome.

KELLY: That's NPR's Carrie Kahn. She has caught up with this so-called caravan of migrants in Matias Romero. That's in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.