A massive migrant caravan headed for the United States ran into trouble Friday, with participants forced to square off against security forces.
Between 1,500 and 4,500 migrants attempted to enter Mexico from Guatemala. With a river separating the two countries, some members opted to jump off a border bridge to try swimming across.
Law enforcement officers from both nations used tear gas and batons to quell the chaos.
“Unbelievable sight on the Mexican border.. tear gas.. rocks being thrown … caravan wants to enter … not able to right now,” tweeted Telemundo anchor Jose Diaz-Balart.
….In addition to stopping all payments to these countries, which seem to have almost no control over their population, I must, in the strongest of terms, ask Mexico to stop this onslaught – and if unable to do so I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2018
USA Today says that Telemundo’s reporters have been traveling with the caravan and tracking its progress. A broadcast showed Mexican police ‘lined up along the fence,’ using shields and men to keep migrants away.
Video reviewed by USA Today showed massive crowds but couldn’t capture any clear shots of the tear gas allegedly used to check the caravan’s progress. Mexican officials have, for their part, promised not to harm or mistreat any migrants attempting to cross into their territory.
However, tensions appeared to mount throughout Friday.
Yesterday morning, President Trump threatened Latin American leaders with severe consequences if the caravan is permitted to proceed northward to the U.S.-Mexico border. Accusing Democrats of engineering weak immigration laws and encouraging illegal immigration, Trump suggested he may send military units toward the frontier.
Mexico’s ambassador to Guatemala says his government plans to pursue a policy of ‘metered entry’ to keep the migrants’ crossings from devolving into chaos.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Mexico Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray on Friday. Pompeo, says USA Today, suggested that Mexican officials work with the United Nations refugee agency to halt the caravan’s progress and possibly address some of its participants’ complaints.
“This is a challenge that Mexico is dealing with, and I have expressed it to Secretary Pompeo,” Videgaray said Friday. “We are a sovereign country. The migratory policy of Mexico is expressed by Mexico.
“We have the rule of law, and we will apply the law, but we will also deal with the caravan in a humanitarian way.”
Pompeo, as part of a joint statement, reiterated the United States’ contemporary aversion to mass migration.
“We are currently reaching a point that appears to be a moment of crisis,” Pompeo said. “A record number of migrants.
“The challenge related to security for our southern border is also a challenge for American sovereignty. We have to fix US laws in order to handle this properly as well. […] President Trump has said it’s something we need to address inside our country to make sure we do this well. If we get this well, we will improve the relationship between our two countries materially as well.”
Many of the caravan’s members are youth and families from the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The three nations have among the highest homicide rates in the world and lie at the epicenter of the region’s ongoing gang crisis.
President Trump has accused the caravan of hosting criminals. But members of the caravan itself told reporters that the group isn’t organized, either by gangs or local government.
“This is how it works,” 32-year old Jose Luis Hernandez told The New Yorker. “People making the trip see others, they see the bigger group, and they joint it. These are people fleeing for their lives. It’s not some coordinated, political thing.”