Mi­grants re­ject Trump’s sin­is­ter char­ac­ter­i­za­tions

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - WORLD - By So­nia Perez D. So­nia Perez D. is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

DONAJI, Mex­ico — As Pres­i­dent Trump ramps up his anti-mi­grant rhetoric ahead of Tues­day’s midterm elec­tions, ex­hausted Cen­tral Amer­i­cans walk­ing across Mex­ico in hopes of reach­ing the United States say they are mostly per­plexed and dis­mayed by his threats, which they per­ceive as ex­ag­ger­ated.

Trump has spent the fi­nal days of the cam­paign ham­mer­ing the is­sue as he tries to en­er­gize Repub­li­can vot­ers, and his fa­vorite tar­get has been the mi­grant car­a­van of al­most 4,000 peo­ple that is still more than 800 miles away from the near­est U.S. border. Smaller groups are fol­low­ing be­hind it.

Trump’s re­cent state­ments in­clude that he plans to sign an or­der that could lead to the de­ten­tion of mi­grants cross­ing the south­ern border, and bar­ring any­one caught cross­ing il­le­gally from claim­ing asy­lum. Both propo­si­tions are legally du­bi­ous.

While some mi­grants have clashed with Mex­i­can po­lice at a bridge on the Gu­atemala border, most of those trav­el­ing with the car­a­vans have been peace­ful and say they are flee­ing vi­o­lence and poverty at home.

Marta Cuel­los, a 40-year-old from Tegu­ci­galpa, the Hon­duran cap­i­tal, said she owned a cantina back home but left be­cause she could no longer make rent and was be­ing ha­rassed by po­lice. She per­suaded her 35-year-old sis­ter to join her on the trip, and said the only thing they want is work and a bet­ter life in the United States. It’s her sec­ond at­tempt. She first crossed into the U.S. seven years ago but was de­ported last year.

Selvin Mal­don­ado, a 25year-old from Copan, Hon­duras, said he left his wife and baby daugh­ter at home in search of a bet­ter liv­ing to sup­port his chil­dren. He took his 5-year-old son, Den­nys, with him.

“What Trump said is stupid,” Mal­don­ado said while walk­ing to the town of Donaji. “I don’t want to at­tack po­lice, be­cause my con­cern is my son.”

The mi­grants also were also turned off by the pres­i­dent’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the slow­mov­ing car­a­van and the smaller ones af­ter as “in­va­sion.” Trump has pro­posed de­tain­ing mi­grants in huge tent cities at the border.

“We are not killers,” said Stephany Lopez, a 21-year-old Sal­vado­ran with the first car­a­van. “We just want to work for a few years, and af­ter that he can de­port us if he wants.”

Lopez noted that the pres­i­dent’s mother, who was born in Scot­land, was an im­mi­grant. “He should think of us as equals. Im­mi­grants have built that coun­try,” she said.

Guillermo Arias / AFP / Getty Images

Mi­grants — mostly Hon­durans — make their way from the com­mu­nity of Sayula to­ward the town of Isla in Ver­acruz state. Pres­i­dent Trump has vil­i­fied the group ahead of elec­tions.

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