Ha­rass­ment, health and fear shrink car­a­van

The Mercury News Weekend - - NEWS - MEX­ICO By Mark Steven­son

MA­PASTE­PEC, MEX­ICO » Lit­tle by lit­tle, sick­ness, fear and po­lice ha­rass­ment are whit­tling down the mi­grant car­a­van mak­ing its way to the U.S. border, with many of the 4,000 to 5,000 mi­grants who re­sumed their jour­ney Thurs­day com­plain­ing of ex­haus­tion.

The group, many with chil­dren and even push­ing tod­dlers in strollers, de­parted Ma­paste­pec at dawn with­more than 1,000 miles still to go be­fore they reach the U.S. border.

They have ad­vanced just 95 miles as the crow flies since thou­sands burst across Mex­ico’s south­ern­most border six days ear­lier.

With the mi­grants still weeks, if not months, from reach­ing the U. S. border, the U. S. ad­min­is­tra­tion was plan­ning to send 800 or more troops to the south­ern border at the di­rec­tion of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who has been stok­ing fears about il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm elec­tions.

De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis was ex­pected to sign an or­der as early as Thurs­day au­tho­riz­ing the ad­di­tional troops to sup­port the Border Pa­trol, ac­cord­ing to a U. S. of­fi­cial, who was not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly about the de­tails be­cause the de­tails had not yet been fi­nal­ized and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

On Thurs­day, the long col­umn of mi­grants stretched for more than a mile as they left the town square in Ma­pastepac in far south­ern Mex­ico, where many spent the night. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity of some 45,000 peo­ple, along with churches and vol­un­teers, of­fered some medicine and do­nated water, cloth­ing baby for­mula and baby bot­tles.

As they reached the high­way, fam­i­lies with young chil­dren packed side­walks ask­ing for do­na­tions and rides to the next stop, Pi­ji­ji­a­pan, about 25 miles fur­ther ahead.

Melkin Claros, 34, was trav­el­ing with his 7-year old son and a teenage nephew and re­mained stead­fast in his goal. “Ev­ery­one’s ob­jec­tive is to ar­rive (in the United States),” he said, adding that he planned to re­quest asy­lum be­cause gangs made it im­pos­si­ble to live in Hon­duras.

“It’s true you risk your life a lot here, but we risk more in our coun­try.”

Still, Mex­i­can of f icials say nearly 1,700 have dropped out of the car­a­van to ap­ply for asy­lum in Mex­ico, and a few hun­dred have ac­cepted gov­ern­ment of­fers to bus them back to their home coun­tries.

RO­DRIGO ABD — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants trav­el­ing with a car­a­van to the U.S. make their way to Pi­ji­ji­a­pan, Mex­ico, on Thurs­day.

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