The “refugee caravan” traveling from Central America that’s kept President Donald Trump preoccupied this week is still going strong, organizers on the ground say, despite American media reporting to the contrary.
On Tuesday morning, The Washington Post published a story with a headline definitively announcing Mexico had “stopped” the caravan. The Post also went on to quote a statement from Mexico’s Interior Ministry claiming “that 400 people in this group have already been deported.” (Hours after the story’s publication, the paper edited the headline to simply say the caravan “stalls at a soccer field.” The current text of the online story also dropped the 400 figure, saying instead that “some” have already been deported. There was no editor’s note about the changes.)
But organizers of the caravan on the ground in Mexico say that’s not true.
“We have communicated with our groups and we account for everybody,” Rodrigo Abeja, an organizer with the group Pueblo Sin Fronteras, told Splinter on Tuesday afternoon, a few hours after the Post published their story.
“It’s possible that the Mexican government said that so President Trump calms down,” Abeja, who was speaking from the city of Matias Romero Avendano in the southern state of Oaxaca, also said.
There’s around 1,175 migrants currently traveling with the caravan, according to Abeja. Although the group has split up—some travel faster than others—he said the entire group is accounted for. He said he was surprised by the number of entire families that are traveling in the caravan, and that about 80% of those traveling with the group are from Honduras.
The Hondurans are fleeing gang violence and an increased military police presence that began last year when Juan Orlando Hernandez became president under questionable circumstances. Reuters has more details on the contested election:
Hernandez, a conservative supported by the United States, appeared set to lose the Nov. 26 election until an abrupt halt in the vote count and a shift in the results took victory away from his center-left rival, Salvador Nasralla.
After that election, the United States became one of the first countries in the world to recognize Hernandez as president.
“People are fleeing because there was a electoral coup and the government is being more dictatorial and the military is in the streets assassinating people and incarcerating them and the U.S. is supporting that,” Alex Mensing, a project coordinator for Pueblo Sin Fronteras, told Splinter.
But children and entire families started fleeing Honduras long before this “refugee caravan” got under way. Border Patrol data shows there’s been a slight increase in the number of Honduran unaccompanied children and families being detained at the border in the first few months of this year. There were 9,392 Honduran parents and children detained at the border from October 1, 2017 and February 28, 2018. An additional 2,768 unaccompanied minors were also detained during that same time period.
Abeja said people are participating in the caravan to fight for their lives and that the fight continues.
Abeja also said his group was in contact with Mexican officials, who said on Monday they would provide some eligible migrants with humanitarian visas. Others not eligible for the visas would be provided with temporary transit passes, which The New York Times reported usually last for 20 days, to allow them to travel through Mexico and apply for asylum without being detained by immigration officials.
Abeja said he expected some members of the caravan to go their separate ways as they obtained documents to protect them from being detained by immigration officials.
But as of Tuesday afternoon, he said Mexican officials hadn’t started handing over any such documents.
“As of now they have no given us any of those documents,” Abeja said. “People have been lied to before so they’re moving forward with caution.”