Roughly 2,000 migrants head north from southern Mexico in new caravan

Associated Press/Marco Ugarte
Migrants, mostly from Central America heading north, sleep on the ground in the Alvaro Obregon community, at Chiapas State, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. 

A caravan of mostly Central American and Haitian migrants reportedly left the southern Mexican city of Tapachula Thursday and headed north, as North American leaders meet in Washington to discuss migration, among other issues.

The formation of the caravan, as reported by The Associated Press, follows reports of increasing frustration among migrants confined to Tapachula by Mexican authorities.

While Mexico’s role as an asylum receiving country has increased drastically over the last few years, the process for third-country nationals to get processed as asylees is still slow and cumbersome. 

In addition, Mexico’s policy of confining migrants to the southeast of the country — the poorest part of Mexico — has rankled migrants who want the opportunity to seek employment in Mexico’s more prosperous north, or in the United States.

Thursday’s caravan is relatively small, with roughly 2,000 members, according to the AP report. 

Still, it’s a sign of a continuing pattern of migration — partly prompted by long-term underlying circumstances, and partly prompted by emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic — that President Biden, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Truedeau will discuss at Thursday’s North American leaders summit.

“Collectively, we’re three of the top destination countries for migrants and asylum seekers in the region,” a senior administration official told reporters Wednesday. 

“I think what you’ll find — which is a bit of a shift, I think, from in the past — is that the focus of the migration discussions are very much on what the three governments can do together outwardly in the region, you know, to address the root causes, to create more legal pathways, to increase access to protection, not so much about what’s happening internally within North America,” added the official.

Cooperation on migration between Mexico and the United States will likely be the focus of those discussions, as López Obrador has been forced to adjust his tone and execution of migration enforcement due to the stark differences on how the Biden and Trump administrations approach the subject.

Still, Mexico’s militarized National Guard — a national police force created by López Obrador — has been at the country’s front line on immigration enforcement, often fielding accusations of human rights abuses. 

The National Guard has taken up the task of breaking up many migrant caravans, seeking to avoid the political headaches that come with mass arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border.

According to the AP report, even some migrants with visas that should technically allow them free travel throughout the country have been turned back to Tapachula and its environs by Mexican authorities.

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