Mexican authorities broke up a second attempted migrant caravan near the country’s southern border as Mexico — under pressure from U.S. authorities to stop the northward flow — offered temporary residency to Central Americans who would agree to remain in the country.
The second caravan, numbering 200 to 300, was much smaller than the major U.S.-bound caravan and was stopped Friday shortly after setting off on a highway just north of the Mexico-Guatemala border. More than 100 people were arrested and face deportation back to Guatemala, a police official said.
In a recorded national address, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said Central Americans who applied for refugee status and promised to remain in the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca would be offered provisional residency permits, work papers and access to health care and schools.
“Mexico wants to protect and help you,” Pena Nieto said, addressing the migrants and outlining the new plan, named Estas en Tu Casa, or, Make Yourself at Home.
The proposal seemed designed at least in part to demonstrate to Washington that Mexico City was doing something to stop the northbound caravan, which President Donald Trump has labeled a “national emergency” and repeatedly used as a campaign issue before congressional elections Nov. 6. Trump has announced plans to send troops to the southwestern border to thwart the group’s advance.
Mexican authorities have rejected police action against the caravan, which began marching north from southern Mexico last weekend. Most caravan members are Honduran nationals who entered Mexico illegally via Guatemala.
The number of current caravan participants has been estimated at 3,500 to 4,000, though there is no precise count of the group that often stretches along several miles on the northbound highway. Many have dropped out and returned home because of grueling conditions, including intense heat and tropical downpours.
The Mexican government’s offer Friday of temporary residence and other benefits apparently didn’t entice many caravan participants.
Mexican media reported that many caravan members rejected Mexico’s plan at an assembly in the town of Arriaga, in southern Mexico, where the Central Americans camped in the central square and elsewhere. Caravan members objected to the idea of being confined to Mexico’s southern states, among the country’s poorest, and were skeptical of avoiding deportation.
Caravan participants say they plan to continue their northward trek, advancing into Oaxaca state after having traversed much of Chiapas. The caravan is still about 1,000 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.
(Kate Linthicum and Cecilia Sanchez contributed to this report.)
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