New migrant caravan enters Mexico, legally or not

CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico (AFP) – Hundreds of Central Americans entered Mexico illegally as the latest migrant caravan trying to reach the United States began crossing the Mexican-Guatemalan border en masse on Friday.

Not content to wait five days for the humanitarian visas Mexico is offering them, several hundred migrants took to make-shift rafts to cross the Suchiate River, which forms the frontier, or snuck across the loosely guarded border bridge overnight, AFP correspondents said.

Their advance could trigger a new Twitter firestorm from US President Donald Trump, who has urged Mexico to halt such caravans, and who tweeted early Friday: “Another big Caravan heading our way. Very hard to stop without a Wall!”

Hundreds more of the 2,000 migrants in the caravan gathered patiently on the border bridge, trickling into Mexico as the authorities processed them.

The authorities will set up checkpoints in southern Mexico to make migrants who snuck into the country register for visas, said Alejandro Encinas, under-secretary for migration.

Honduras migrants cross the border between Mexico and Guatemala on a raft over the Suchiate river near Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas State, Mexico. – AP

“We are informing all of them that they must comply with our country’s laws,” he said.

Caravans of migrants seeking safety in numbers have taken centre stage in the raging debate in the United States over Trump’s proposed border wall, which has led to a government shutdown that is now the longest in history.

The latest caravan is smaller than the one that swelled to 7,000 migrants late last year, leading Trump to warn of an “invasion” by “hardened criminals” and send thousands of troops to the US-Mexican border.

Mexican authorities are urging the migrants to arrive legally and offering expedited “visitor cards” that let them work and access basic health care in Mexico.