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Migrant Caravan Met With Tougher Mexico Border Security

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Thousands of would-be migrants from Central America are again fleeing their countries and heading north. It's not exactly one huge caravan but rather several groups of hundreds of migrants. Some groups have been stopped and turned back in Honduras and Guatemala, but hundreds of others have already arrived at Mexico's southern border, and more are coming. James Fredrick brings us this story from Ciudad Hidalgo on the Mexico-Guatemala border.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Yelling, unintelligible).

JAMES FREDRICK, BYLINE: It was a tense start to the morning. Nearly 1,000 migrants gathered on the bridge connecting Mexico and Guatemala but were met by Mexico's National Guard in riot gear. A handful of migrants began pushing the troops and throwing water bottles and small rocks. The national guard forced them back with pepper spray and slammed shut the 12-foot-tall steel gate guarding the bridge.

A few days ago, when reports first surfaced about a new migrant caravan, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the migrants would have two options arriving in Mexico. They could request a work permit and stay in Mexico's southern border states, or they could request asylum in Mexico. But because of a 2019 agreement with the Trump administration to stop migrants travelling north, Lopez Obrador said migrants would not be allowed to travel through Mexico towards the U.S.

Even after the morning clash, the Mexican government appeared to be following through on the president's promise. Authorities would open the gate and let groups of 20 or 30 migrants through at a time to request a work permit or asylum. In total, a few hundred have handed themselves in.

But among the hundreds of remaining migrants, rumors began to circulate that the Mexican government was lying and deporting people who handed themselves in. Human rights groups in Mexico expressed similar concerns to NPR but could not verify exactly what was happening to the migrants. Mexican migration authorities have not yet responded to NPR's questions. Thousands more migrants are still on their way to Mexico, which means one thing is clear - the poverty, crime and corruption people are fleeing in Central America has not changed.

For NPR News, I'm James Fredrick in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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