Caravan Of Central American Migrants Attracting A Lot Of Attention After Trump's Tweets
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
A caravan of Central American migrants is traveling through Mexico this week. More than a thousand people are participating, most of them from Honduras. Those thousand people have attracted a lot of attention thanks in large part to President Trump and his Twitter account. NPR's Carrie Kahn is in Monterrey, Mexico, where she has been following the movements of this caravan and reaction to it from both sides of the border. Hey, Carrie.
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hi.
KELLY: Now, I know you've been speaking with the organizers of this caravan. What exactly is it? And let me start you with the fact this is not a new phenomenon.
KAHN: Right. These are activists in Mexico and the United States that come to help migrants crossing through Mexico. And they have done this several times before. The people are from all over Central America. The majority of these migrants, however, are from Honduras. And most are fleeing the violence and organized crime gangs in those countries. And they travel together mainly for safety. It's a dangerous trek through Mexico. Many migrants are extorted, robbed by organized crime gangs, and they encounter along the way many corrupt Mexican officials, too.
KELLY: Do we know where they're headed? Are they all headed to the U.S.?
KAHN: Well, most have left their countries of origin in hopes of getting to the U.S. But last year when they came through Mexico, I spoke to a large amount of the migrants. And some of them at that time - and remember; this was last year right after President Trump had taken office - and they just decided that they didn't want to try to get into the United States. So a lot of them stayed in Mexico and asked for asylum or refugee status here.
KELLY: And you said the organizers are activists. Activists for what?
KAHN: To protect migrants and to help them with human rights issues and the situation in their home countries and the situations in Mexico. They want to protect them - their rights as migrants and people seeking asylum. So they give them information about that. And they do help them get through Mexico as safe as they can.
KELLY: Now, I mentioned President Trump, who has been tweeting that caravans are coming. He is accusing Mexico of doing, quote, "very little if not nothing" to stop people from crossing illegally from Mexico to the U.S. Is he right, Carrie? What is Mexico doing?
KAHN: Well, Mexico's foreign minister was quick to send out his own tweet to say that every single day Mexico and the U.S. are cooperating on migration issues. Mexico has in the past cracked down on migrants, Central American migrants coming through. But it is something that they haven't been able to sustain on a continual basis. Tens of thousands of Central Americans every year come through Mexico on their way to the United States, and Mexico just doesn't have the manpower, the inspection points, the border stations available to do all of that work for the United States and for Mexico, too. It's a - you know, it's a poor country, and it doesn't have the money to do all the immigration enforcement that it would want to do. And just as in the U.S., it has - its detention facilities are full. It has shortages of border agents. It's a tough situation, too, here in Mexico.
KELLY: You're in Monterrey right now following Mexico's leading presidential candidate on the campaign trail there. What's he had to say about this latest dust-up between President Trump and Mexico?
KAHN: Right. Polls put populist leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in a - almost a 20 percent lead here now. Yesterday he was talking a lot about President Trump and the United States and NAFTA negotiations. And he said that Mexico will not be the pinata of any foreign government. And he has spoken loudly about his opposition to the way Mexico is being treated.
KELLY: NPR's Carrie Kahn reporting there from Monterrey, Mexico. Thanks, Carrie.
KAHN: You're welcome.
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