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  • Officials of the National Migration Institute (INM) register migrants from Central America to cross the country on their way to the United States, in Chiapas state, Mexico March 27, 2019.

    Officials of the National Migration Institute (INM) register migrants from Central America to cross the country on their way to the United States, in Chiapas state, Mexico March 27, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 28 March 2019

A caravan of over 20,000 people is forming in Honduras while the U.S. border patrol struggles with the overflow of migrants.

The “mother of all caravans” is growing in Honduras, the federal interior secretary said Wednesday while the United States Office of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said the immigration system at the U.S. southern border has reached a breaking point.

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“We are aware that a new caravan is forming in Honduras that they’re calling the mother of all caravans . . . and which could be [made up of] more than 20,000 people,” federal interior secretary, Olga Sanchez Cordero, said.

The caravan still hasn’t made public any details of their travel to Mexico. This caravan is also the first one to travel through Mexico since the Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) took office on Dec. 1. The Mexican government has been issuing humanitarian visas for the migrants to live and work in the country for up to one year. However, most migrants have chosen to travel northward to the United States. 

The U.S. Commissioner of the Office of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Kevin McAleenan, from the El Paso sector of the U.S.-Mexico border said the immigration office cannot work properly due to an overflow of migrants.

"Two weeks ago I made a summary to the media and testified in Congress that the immigration system was at a breaking point. That breaking point has reached the border this week. CBP is facing an unprecedented humanitarian and border security crisis all along the southern border,” he said.

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Currently, there are 12,000 migrants in custody and he estimates, by March, the number of arrests will reach 100,000, the highest number reached in a month in the last decade. "4,000 is a high number (...) 6,000 is a critical level, 13,000 is unprecedented," said McAleenan.

"We need additional assistance and resources to address this flow," the officer said adding that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should streamline the process and receive families and unaccompanied minors in their centers.

He also requested support from the government to increase their response capacity as at this point, due to overflow and understaffing, the CBP releases the immigrants in the U.S. after processing them.

In the last four days, they have had at their centers, children with 45 degrees of fever, a two-year-old girl with seizures, a 19-year-old woman who required an urgent heart operation and a 40-year-old man who arrived with several failed organs.

In recent past, four people have died in the custody of the Border Patrol, including a 40-year-old and another 45-year-old, both Mexicans, and the two Guatemalan children Felipe Gomez Alonso, 8, and Jakelin Caal, 7.

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Now, the biggest caravan is getting ready to travel through Mexico to the U.S.

“We have to make a response because there cannot continue to be hundreds of thousands of migrants passing through Mexico and arriving at the northern border,” Interior Secretary Sanchez said.

The Mexican government has already stopped granting humanitarian visas to the immigrants to discourage the caravan.

For Irineo Mujica, a member of a migrant advocacy group said this decision of Mexico is done “to comply with the expectations of [United States President Donald] Trump.”

The U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen met with Sanchez Tuesday and they “discussed ways the U.S. and Mexico can work together to address irregular migration and the record levels of illegal entries at the U.S. southern border,” said Sanchez.

Neilsen and Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) security ministers are working on “a first-of-its-kind memorandum of cooperation– or ‘regional compact’” – that “focuses on stemming the migration crisis at its source, including preventing the formation of new migrant caravans that set out to reach the United States,” the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said.

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