An estimated 1,500 migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador started a month-long journey on Sunday to the United States, where they intend to seek political asylum. Organizers say the “refugee caravan” includes many women, unaccompanied minors, and entire families who are migrating through Mexico any way they can.
The migrants started their journey in Tapachula, Chiapas, near the Guatemala–Mexico border around 7 AM on Sunday. They walked, took public transportation, and hitchhiked their way to their first destination in the town of Huixtla, where many of the migrants camped outdoors. Their entire journey is more than 2,000 miles long.
“The turnout surprised all of us,” Rodrigo Abeja, a Mexico-based organizer with Pueblo Sin Fronteras, the immigrant rights group behind the caravan, told Splinter. Abeja said the group’s most recent caravans last year only had about 450 migrants. About 80% of the migrants in this latest caravan are from Honduras; Abeja speculated that the swelling numbers could be due to recent political instability in that country.
The caravan comes just months after the Trump administration has called for a stricter vetting process for asylum seekers.
Abeja said the caravan has grown as migrants learn about the group as it journeys through Mexico.
So far, the critical mass of migrants marching through towns seems to be working. On Facebook, the group claimed the caravan is so large that Mexican immigration officials on Sunday abandoned a check point.
Abeja said there are month-old infants being carried by young mothers alongside elders in their seventies who are making the journey. There’s also a small contingent of people who identify as LGBTQ.
He said most migrants are escaping political persecution and gang violence.
Those participating in the caravan will attend workshops to prepare them to request asylum when they reach the U.S. The migrants are expected to reach U.S. points of entries in California sometime next month.
Abeja said the number of people on this journey illustrates the desperation people have to stay alive.
“The journey is extreme. People say that if they stay where they are they’ll die. So they’re here because they’re trying to stay alive,” Abeja said.
The next stop for the group is in the town of Mapastepec, where, according to Pueblo Sin Fronteras, a local school has agreed to shelter the refugee caravan.