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Hundreds of Central American migrants stuck in southern Mexico say they hope to keep moving north in the coming days. They're part of a caravan that was sidelined earlier this week after the group drew the ire of President Trump and the attention of Mexican migration officials. NPR's Carrie Kahn is with the caravan in the southern state of Oaxaca.
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Josue Arraveno has been sleeping on the hard ground in the middle of a huge, dusty park in the town of Matias Romero in southern Oaxaca state for the past four nights. He's surrounded by his family's few belongings and hundreds of fellow Central American migrants. Just a month ago, the 29-year-old father of two boys, all from El Salvador, made deliveries for a local Pizza Hut.
JOSUE ARRAVENO: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: "If I was OK in my country, would I have left? No," he says. But Arraveno says the violence was too much for his family. Twice gang members brutally beat him and stole his delivery money. His wife had a gun put to her head while carrying their youngest son, and his 11-year-old remains traumatized from witnessing the murder of a neighborhood girl.
ARRAVENO: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: "I had to take him to the hospital to see a psychologist. We couldn't leave our neighborhood because gangs control them." He says his goal is to make it to the U.S. border.
ARRAVENO: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: "I'm going to turn myself and my family in to the immigration officials there and ask for asylum," he says.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: At the park, a Mexican immigration official calls out the names of people recently registered with the agency. Several hundred receive special 30-day permits to stay in the country. Many say they don't plan to leave. They say it's less risky to ask for asylum in Mexico than in the U.S. President Trump took to Twitter this week to warn about the caravan coming through Mexico toward the U.S. border. The White House Wednesday asked border states to send their National Guard troops to the southwest border. Irineo Mujica, director of the migrant activist group Pueblos Sin Fronteras, says the migrants pose no threat to the U.S. He says Trump is demonizing them.
IRINEO MUJICA: He doesn't care about the facts. The fact is we're still here, we're still strong, and we're still fighting.
KAHN: Apprehensions along the U.S. southwest border have been at historic lows since Trump took office. But figures released yesterday show a sharp increase in March with apprehensions triple what they were during the same month last year. For the hundreds here in the park, it's unclear exactly when they will head north. The plan is to resume traveling together to the central Mexican city of Puebla. From there, everyone is on their own. Until then, the hundreds of men, women and children remain here in the park without shelters, bathrooms or showers and little food.
Daisy Galvez says it's been rough, and she wishes President Trump would stop his attacks on them. She fled Honduras two months ago after gang members kidnapped and raped her 15-year-old daughter. She says Trump needs more compassion.
DAISY GALVEZ: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: "I know that God will touch his heart so that he will accept us," she says. "We don't want to cause anyone harm in the U.S. We just want to be safe." Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Matias Romero, Oaxaca, Mexico.
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