The ranks of a new Central American migrant caravan reportedly grew in size to more than 12,000 as of Friday. The caravan is now heading to Mexico’s southern border.
Mexican immigration officials in the city of Ciudad Hidalgo, which borders Guatemala, are establishing procedures to expedite the process in which to approve one-year humanitarian visas for members of the Central American migrant caravan who are arriving daily. The one-year humanitarian visas, promised by Mexico’s new President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is a newly adopted policy which allows migrants to legally travel and work during their stay in Mexico.
The new policy of handing out humanitarian visas began on January 17 in response to the new caravan of primarily Honduran migrants who left their home country and headed towards the Mexican border on January 15. Officials originally estimated the caravan’s size at about 2,000. Mexico now claims the caravan’s population swelled to over 12,000 migrants, according to local media and Breitbart Texas sources.
Officials put the new visa policy from President López Obrador in place to deal with caravan migrants as an attempt to prevent them from traveling unaccounted for throughout Mexico. Officials say it will also prevent the caravan members from having to illegally enter Mexico from Guatemala by crossing the Suchiate river.
Migrants now entering Mexico can do so by arriving at an established border crossing and applying for the humanitarian visa with Mexican immigration officials. Immigration officials explain the process will be expedited to avoid a bottleneck at the border. Although the Mexican government is encouraging members of the caravan to remain in Mexico to work, it is believed that most of the Central American migrants intend to head to the U.S. border and attempt to cross into the United States.
The new humanitarian visa policy is now believed to be responsible for the surge in the number of migrants who decided to join the caravan. Immigration officials hope the streamlined visa process will reduce processing time to five days instead of the month or longer. It is believed that many of the migrants will be able to seek out temporary work while waiting at the U.S. border for asylum requests to be processed. Many are expected to decide to attempt to cross illegally into the United States.
Breitbart Texas recently reported that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials say an increase in the number of large group border crossings led to the apprehension of nearly 9,000 in a small part of the Arizona border during the first part of Fiscal Year 2019. CBP officials reported that at least 26 other large groups of mostly Central American migrants crossed in a small part of the New Mexico border. Border Patrol officials define a “large group” as more than 100 migrants.
It is currently unknown if this new caravan will travel northward in mass as the previous ones have done. Earlier caravans traveled in a large group in order to avoid being arrested and for protection. With the new visa’s allowing them to work and travel freely, it is believed that the caravan may break up into smaller groups according to local Breitbart sources. Although the new caravan is made up of primarily Hondurans, officials report Guatemalans, Salvadorans, and Nicaraguans are also traveling with the group.
Earlier this week, the border city of Tijuana, where previous migrant caravans arrived, reported the arrival on 100 Russian migrants who were seeking an asylum request to enter the United States.
Robert Arce is a retired Phoenix Police detective with extensive experience working Mexican organized crime and street gangs. Arce has worked in the Balkans, Iraq, Haiti, and recently completed a three-year assignment in Monterrey, Mexico, working out of the Consulate for the United States Department of State, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Program, where he was the Regional Program Manager for Northeast Mexico (Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Durango, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas.) You can follow him on Twitter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.