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12,000 migrants headed to US in possible largest caravan yet

Honduran migrants heading to the United States with a second caravan walk upon arrival at the customs in Agua Caliente, at the Honduras-Guatemala border, on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019 (Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)
January 28, 2019

Another massive migrant caravan is on its way to the U.S. from Central America.

The possibly largest-ever caravan from Central America has amassed more than 12,000 people, some of who intend to pursue refugee status in Mexico, while many more are headed for the U.S., the New York Times reported Friday.

The number in the caravan isn’t just an estimate – it’s the number of migrants who have requested visas from the Mexican government.

On Jan. 17, Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has vowed to issue one-year humanitarian visas that will allow migrants to travel and settle in Mexico. It is part of Obrador’s policies aimed at reducing migration and spurring job growth in Mexico.

As of Thursday, 8,446 adults and 1,897 children had applied for the visas, most of which are Honduras nationals, according to the Washington Post.

Obrador’s new visa policy is said to be a huge attractor of migrants, though less than 1,000 visas have been granted so far.

President Trump tweeted to acknowledge the caravan on Saturday, saying, “We have turned away, at great expense, two major Caravans, but a big one has now formed and is coming. At least 8000 people! If we had a powerful Wall, they wouldn’t even try to make the long and dangerous journey. Build the Wall and Crime will Fall!”

Trump later followed up with, “Only fools, or people with a political agenda, don’t want a Wall or Steel Barrier to protect our Country from Crime, Drugs and Human Trafficking. It will happen – it always does!”

The Mexican government released data showing that 132,000 illegal immigrants were detained throughout 2018. The U.S. Border Patrol captured nearly 400,000 illegal immigrants between Oct. 2017 and Sept. 2018 – before the Central American caravans even began in the fall.

Mexican authorities stopped 18,000 migrants in October, and another 12,000 in November. With the new humanitarian visas, they are completely shifting their approach on migration.

Thousands of migrants still remain in Tijuana, Mexico, where the last major caravans stopped in their attempt to cross into the U.S.

There, migrants are awaiting asylum interviews with U.S. immigration agencies after the U.S. mandated that migrants must remain in Mexico while their asylum cases are pending.

Mexico had offered jobs and assistance to migrants in the previous caravans, but the migrants refused, instead wanting to pursue asylum in the U.S.