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News > World

Mexican Communities, Churches Come to Migrants' Aid

  • Migrants hitchhike on a truck along the highway to Arriaga from Pijijiapan, Mexico

    Migrants hitchhike on a truck along the highway to Arriaga from Pijijiapan, Mexico | Photo: Reuters

Published 26 October 2018

Mexican residents have opened their doors to the migrant caravan, however, a heightened military presence is expected at the United States border.

Thousands of migrants have trekked across thousands of miles from Honduras to Guatemala and into Mexico over the last two weeks. Since crossing the border into Mexico last week, the migrant caravan has traversed 100 miles through the southern Mexican state of Chiapas into the town of Pijijiapan.

Trump to Send Military to Mexican Border, Pentagon Denies It

Between Honduras and Mexico, the caravan has grown from around 160 people, who initially banded together, to over 7,000 according to the caravan's organizers and international aid groups, including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Conditions of violence and poverty have been driving factors in the mass exodus.

The journey has been grueling. In Pijijiapan, volunteer nurses and medical volunteers set up an improvised medical center in the main square to treat members of the caravan. The volunteers worked with donated medicine to treat coughs and other maladies. People were most commonly treated for dehydration and foot burns.

Dr. Jesus Miravete treated more than 120 people within the first four hours on Thursday. Many had foot burns from wearing plastic sandals on the scorching asphalt.

"Many tell me: 'I can not rest, I have to continue'," said Miravete. "It really is very difficult. I feel overwhelmed, especially by the number of dehydrated children I've seen."

Residents of Pijijiapan, like many places in Chiapas, have offered accommodation, food and medical attention for members of the caravan. Others arrived with used clothes and boxes of sandwiches, Efe reports.

"They are human beings. Something must be done to support them, "said Cesar Cabuqui, who handed out water bags and homemade sandwiches of beans and cheese.

The reception was similar in Mapastepec, a town of 45,000 about 30 miles south of Pijijiapan. Local authorities placed tents around the main square to provide medical services, give out donated clothes, and dispense baby food. Local churches offered free showers and hubs for food distribution.

Honduran natives in communities such as New Orleans and other parts of the U.S. have also banned together in the hope of offering assistance. 

"We are thinking about how to raise the consciousness of people in our own community," Wilmer Toro, a Honduran who lives in the U.S. told the Advocate. “We’re trying to think of ways to support people once they do get there if they are able to get here.”

Santos Canales, another Honduran native who has lived in the U.S. since 1999, said the fact that immigrants are undertaking the exhausting journey north is proof of how bad their situation has gotten in Honduras. 

"Many of us have a neighbor on that caravan or a friend on that caravan," he said, according to a translation by Chloe Sigal of the New Orleans immigrant advocacy organization Congress of Day Laborers.

"The thousands of people who are on that caravan, they are not making a choice to come on vacation. They are fleeing for their lives, and they have no other choice," said Canales. "It's very hard to do that sort of thing, and that's why we want to support them."

The caravan, which includes many families and children, have planned to reach Arriaga Friday. Arriaga is 62 miles from Pijijiapan. It would be their most ambitious day since entering Mexican territory.

The group still has about 1,000 miles before they reach the nearest border crossing in McAllen, Texas.

At least 800 troops will be sent to the border in response to the caravan and under U.S. President Donald Trump's order. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expected to sign documents for the troop movement soon, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Details of the operation have not been finalized.

Bill Speaks, a spokesperson from the Pentagon has denied that any such request had been filed.

However, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Thursday that troops would be deployed.

"We've asked for some air support, for some logistics, some planning, vehicle barriers, engineering, ways in which I can protect my officers and agents as well as the ports of entry themselves," Nielsen said.

"We do not have any intention right now to shoot at people. They will be apprehended, however," she added. "But I also take my officer and agents, their own personal safety, extraordinarily seriously. They do have the ability of course to defend themselves."

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