Pressure Turns to Mexico as Migrant Caravan Heads for Border

October 18, 2018, 4:09 pm EST | Share:

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — A migrant caravan of nearly 3,000 Hondurans prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to threaten closing the U.S.- Mexico border if authorities there fail to stop them. The move would disrupt hundreds of thousands of legal freight, vehicle and pedestrian crossings each day.

In hopes of energizing his Republican base, Trump made the caravan a political issue in regards to border security three weeks before the Nov. 6 elections.

The president blamed Democrats on Thursday for what he called “weak laws” and tweeted, “I must, in the strongest of terms, ask Mexico to stop this onslaught — and if unable to do so I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!”

The threat followed another one earlier this week to cut off aid to Central American countries if the migrants weren’t stopped. However, earlier this year Trump made a similar vow over another large migrant caravan, but didn’t follow through and it largely petered out in Mexico.

On Thursday, Mexico dispatched additional police to its southern border, after the Casa del Migrante shelter on the Guatemalan side of the border reported that hundreds of Hondurans had already arrived there.

Mexican officials say the Hondurans won’t be allowed to enter as a group, and would either have to show a passport and visa — something few have — or apply individually for refugee status, a process that can mean waiting for up to 90 days for approval.

Mexico’s ambassador to Guatemala, Luis Manuel Lopez Moreno, met with leaders of the caravan Wednesday and warned them that Hondurans caught without papers in Mexico would be deported.

Still, the idea that Mexico could close its porous southern border — or that the United States would choke off the lucrative trade and other traffic between the two nations — strained the imagination.

And, much like Guatemala and Honduras, Mexico is itself a country of many migrants, raising the question of whether the political will exists for a confrontation.

Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who takes office on Dec. 1, wants to avoid repression against migrants and also avoid angering the United States. He has long pushed economic development as a way to keep people from migrating, and on Wednesday he reached out again.

“We will offer jobs, work to Central Americans. Anyone who wants to work in our country will have help, will have a work visa,” he pledged.

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