CIUDAD HIDALGO, MEXICO (AFP) – Mexican troops urged some 1,500 Central American migrants to maintain “order and respect” on Saturday after the group attempted to force entry into the country from Guatemala in the hopes of trekking onward to the United States (US).
Standing on the wall above the Rodolfo Robles International Bridge that connects Mexico with its southern neighbour, National Guard General Vincente Hernandez told migrants they would be allowed to cross the border in a “controlled” manner.
“With order and respect, all will be served. There are opportunities for everyone,” said Hernandez, who also coordinates the National Guard operations along the Suchiate River, the natural border between Mexico and Guatemala.
“We understand the situation, you are our brothers from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala,” Hernandez told the caravan. His speech was met with applause.
Some 800 migrants agreed to regularise their status and seek employment in Mexico, an official from the National Institute of Migration (INM) said. Earlier Saturday, troops had blocked the caravan, scuffling with the migrants as they attempted to cross the border.
One National Guard soldier standing guard at the bridge and speaking over a bullhorn told the travellers they could not enter without a visa or migration document, and that sneaking in was dangerous.
“Do not expose yourself to people traffickers. Your life is in danger,” said the agent, who also told them the idea that the US will grant them asylum is false.
Most of the migrants left last Tuesday from Honduras and had arrived on Saturday morning at the bridge over the Suchiate River, which forms the border between Guatemala and Mexico to the north.
Some of the migrants insisted on getting in but others in groups of around 20 turned around and headed back to migration holding facilities on the Guatemalan side of the frontier.
Mexico had beefed up its forces at the border crossing as it anticipated the arrival of a caravan of some 3,000 people mainly from Honduras and El Salvador.
On Friday, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador offered 4,000 jobs to members of the caravan in an attempt to dissuade them from travelling on to the United States.
Mexico has come under pressure from US President Donald Trump to slow a surge of undocumented migrants who arrived at the US-Mexican border last year.
Trump threatened in May to impose tariffs on Mexico if the government did not do more to stop them.
Lopez Obrador’s administration then deployed 27,000 National Guardsmen to tighten its borders.
He has also allowed the US to send more than 40,000 asylum-seekers back to Mexico while their cases are processed, under the so-called “Remain in Mexico” policy.
Human Rights Watch accused Mexico on Tuesday of violating migrants’ rights by failing to guarantee the security of those returned by the US and detaining others in “inhumane conditions.”
Tens of thousands of Central American migrants crossed Mexico toward the US last year in large caravans, fleeing chronic poverty and brutal gang violence and seeking safety in numbers from the dangers of the journey.
That prompted Trump to warn of an “invasion” and deploy nearly 6,000 US troops to the border.