TAPACHULA, Mexico ( Associated Press) — About 2,000 migrants left this city in southern Mexico City on Friday, saying they were uninterested in the visas and permits the government had issued in an attempt to disband other caravans, calling instead for buses to the US border.
The last group arrived just two weeks after an even larger group had left Tapachula, coinciding with a summit of hemispheric leaders hosted by the United States. Most of these migrants were given temporary papers and transit visas to allow them to board buses and continue north through Mexico.
The paperwork usually gives migrants a month or more to regularize their status in Mexico or leave the country. Most migrants use them to get to the US border.
But Friday’s migrants said authorities in other parts of Mexico were not respecting those documents, and many migrants were returned to the south.
“March does not need permission for 30 days. The march does not need a humanitarian visa,” said Venezuelan Jonathan Avila, one of the group’s self-proclaimed leaders. “We want the organizations and the government… to create a humanitarian corridor.”
He said they wanted buses to take them to the US border. “The visa is not valid,” he said. “They give us back the visa, they tear it up.”
At the original checkpoint on a highway on the outskirts of Tapachula, authorities watched the migrants passing by without interfering.
Frustrated migrants have long complained about the Mexican strategy of keeping them out of Mexico’s south, where there are fewer job opportunities. The Mexican government has essentially left only a path for migrants to apply for asylum, which many are not eligible for and which has overwhelmed the system, resulting in delays.
“(Waiting) is too much of an expense,” said Colombian Janet Rodas, who is traveling with her Venezuelan partner and child. She said that migrants travel all day in Tapachula between the detention center, the asylum agency and other institutions. Bypassing makes it difficult for those in shelters to work or prepare meals.
Many migrants carry travel debt and are under pressure to get to the United States where they can find work and start paying off their debts.
Carlos Guzmán from Honduras joined the caravan with his wife and five children. They were given an initial meeting with the asylum office for September.
“We were given too much time for the meeting,” he said. That’s why we decided to take a walk.
This week, non-governmental organizations that visited Mexico’s border with Guatemala said they saw violations by the authorities.
Melissa Vertis of the Immigration Policy Working Group said that the Mexican National Guard should stop working as immigration authorities and that migrants should be allowed to normalize their status in other parts of Mexico rather than being restricted to the south.
Mexican Senator Emilio Alvarez Icaza, who accompanied the organizations, warned that the situation in the south was a ticking time bomb that could spark violence.
“There is no information about the humanitarian crisis that the southern border is experiencing. There is no sense of the scale of what is happening here,” he said.
Caravans have formed in recent years as migrants who sought safety in large numbers or could not pay the smugglers banded together. But they are part of a normal migration flow through Mexico that happens mostly out of sight.
Days of walking in tropical heat and rain quickly take their toll on caravan members. Sometimes the authorities try to detain emaciated participants, but lately the government has been trying to avoid potential conflict and instead issuing temporary papers to disband the caravans.