A 4,000-person caravan of migrants has arrived in Guatemala City, sparking concern from the White House and mass media attention.
The New York Times reports that the group has traveled for days. Many have walked, hitchhiked and taken public buses to leave the Central American nation of Honduras.
Now, in Guatemala and on Mexico’s doorstep, the caravan’s begun splintering into smaller bands.
President Donald Trump addressed the movement with a series of fiery tweets on Thursday. Trump threatened to send military forces to the U.S.-Mexico border and punish Latin American leaders. He also vowed to cut off aid to Honduras if its government didn’t make efforts to recall its wayward citizens.
The Times spoke to the caravan’s participants. Some said they were fleeing the rampant gang violence which has given Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala some of the highest homicide rates in the world. Others simply hope to find better-paying jobs and more opportunity for themselves and their families.
“We’re traveling to find a better future for my daughters,” said Fanny Rodriguez, a migrant holed up in a Guatemala City shelter. “We’re not going because we want fancy things.”
“I don’t have to give them luxuries, only what’s necessary—that’s my daughters don’t lack food, that my daughters don’t lack clothes,” Rodriguez told the Times. “Things like that.”
She told reporters that her family had been treated with ‘considerable kindness’ by Guatemalans, receiving donations of food and diapers.
Another man, Nery Maldonado, said he simply hoped that he could find medical assistance in the United States.
Maldonado, writes the Times, has no legs and can transport himself only with a wheelchair. When he last made a journey northward, in 2015, he’d tried hopping aboard a freight train in Mexico—that ill-fated attempt cost him his legs.
“We decided to come because of the economic situation,” Maldonado said. “We wanted to go to the United Sates to see if we could ask for a couple of prosthetics.”
This caravan is the latest of many, the first having been organized in 2008.
The last provoked an angry reaction from President Trump, who demanded that local leaders do more to prevent migrants from heading northward to the United States. He escalated his rhetoric on Thursday, suggesting that the military might be deployed along the border if Mexico doesn’t bar the caravans from crossing its southern border. Trump suggested that Democrats might be to fault, too.
“I am watching the Democrat Party led (because they want Open Border and existing weak laws) assault on our country by Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, whose leadears are doing little to stop this large flow of people, INCLUDING MANY CRIMINALS, from entering Mexico to U.S.,” Trump tweeted early Thursday morning.
The president didn’t offer any source for his claim that the caravan ‘includes many criminals.’ But, considering his past rhetoric on Latino and Hispanic migrants, the comment scarcely comes as any surprise.