Mi­grants de­cide to de­part Mex­ico City with or with­out buses

Malta Independent - - World -

Thou­sands of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants de­cided to de­part Mex­ico City early Fri­day and head to­ward the north­ern city of Ti­juana, opt­ing for the longer but likely safer route to the U.S. bor­der, car­a­van or­ga­niz­ers said.

The de­ci­sion was made late Thurs­day in a Mex­ico City sta­dium where roughly 5,000 mi­grants have spent the past few days rest­ing, re­ceiv­ing med­i­cal at­ten­tion and de­bat­ing to how to pro­ceed with their ar­du­ous trek. It came shortly af­ter car­a­van rep­re­sen­ta­tives met with of­fi­cials from the lo­cal United Na­tions of­fice and de­manded buses to take them to the bor­der.

Car­a­van co­or­di­na­tor Mil­ton Ben­itez told the mi­grants that they were still wait­ing for a re­sponse. But he later said to The As­so­ci­ated Press the of­fi­cials had of­fered them buses for women and chil­dren but or­ga­niz­ers de­manded that they be for ev­ery­one. U.N. rep­re­sen­ta­tives could not be im­me­di­ately reached to con­firm this.

The mi­grants hoped that buses would ar­rive for them Fri­day morn­ing but de­cided to leave Mex­ico City even if they didn’t.

“God, please let the buses ar­rive, but if not we will walk,” said 18-year-old sin­gle mother Delia Murillo who left her girl in Hon­duras be­cause she feared for her safety on the trek.

Ad­dress­ing the assem­bly in the Mex­ico City sports com­plex, or­ga­nizer Wal­ter Cuello yelled: “Five in the morn­ing Ti­juana!” The mi­grants re­sponded with en­thu­si­as­tic ap­plause and shouts. Their plan was to walk to the cen­tral Mex­i­can city of Quere­taro on Fri­day.

Some mi­grants doubted the buses would ar­rive.

“There will be no buses,” said Hec­tor Wil­fredo Ros­ales, a 46year-old elec­tri­cian from Olan­cho, Hon­duras, who was trav­el­ing with his 16-year-old son-in­law. “They have lied to us a lot but we will walk like we have done so far.”

Mex­ico City is more than 600 miles from the near­est U.S. bor­der cross­ing at McAllen, Texas, and a pre­vi­ous car­a­van in the spring opted for the longer route to Ti­juana in the far north­west, across from San Diego. That car­a­van steadily dwin­dled to only about 200 peo­ple by the time it reached the bor­der.

“Cal­i­for­nia is the long­est route but is the best bor­der, while Texas is the clos­est but the worst” bor­der, said Jose Luis Fuentes of the Na­tional Lawyers Guild to gath­ered mi­grants.

Ros­ales said he would have pre­ferred a shorter route “be­cause there are a lot of women with chil­dren with us and it is go­ing to be very hard.” But he agreed with the de­ci­sion to leave Mex­ico City

and hoped peo­ple along the way would give them lifts.

The mi­grants said they wanted buses to take them to the U.S. bor­der be­cause it is too hard and dan­ger­ous to con­tinue walk­ing and hitch­hik­ing. Ben­itez noted that it would be colder in north­ern Mex­ico and it wasn’t safe for the mi­grants to con­tinue along high­ways, where drug car­tels fre­quently op­er­ate.

“This is a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis and they are ig­nor­ing it,” Ben­itez said as the group ar­rived at the U.N. of­fice.

The Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants be­gan their ar­du­ous trek to­ward the United States more than three weeks ago and were turned by Pres­i­dent Donald Trump into a cam­paign is­sue in the U.S. midterm elec­tions.

Mex­ico has of­fered refuge, asy­lum or work visas to the mi­grants, and its govern­ment said 2,697 tem­po­rary visas had been is­sued to in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies to cover them while they wait for the 45-day ap­pli­ca­tion process for a more per­ma­nent sta­tus.

But most want to con­tinue on to­ward the United States. Au­thor­i­ties say most have re­fused of­fers to stay in Mex­ico, and only a small num­ber have agreed to re­turn to their home coun­tries. About 85 per­cent of the mi­grants are from Hon­duras, while oth­ers are from the Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­tries of Gu­atemala, El Sal­vador and Nicaragua.

On Wed­nes­day, a bus left from Mex­ico City to re­turn 37 peo­ple to their coun­tries of ori­gin.

There have al­ready been re­ports of mi­grants on the car­a­van go­ing miss­ing, though that is of­ten be­cause they hitch rides on trucks that turn off on dif­fer­ent routes, leav­ing them lost.

The U.N. hu­man rights agency said its of­fice in Mex­ico had filed a re­port with pros­e­cu­tors in the cen­tral state of Puebla about two buses that mi­grants boarded in the last leg of the trip to Mex­ico City early this week, and whose where­abouts are not known.

In Mex­ico City, the mi­grants re­ceived med­i­cal at­ten­tion and hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance, in­clud­ing food, wa­ter, di­a­pers and other ba­sics. They searched through piles of clothes and grabbed boxes of milk for chil­dren.

Mar­lon Ivan Men­dez, a farm worker from Copan, Hon­duras, waited in line for do­nated shoes to re­place the worn crocs he has used since leav­ing his coun­try three weeks ago. He said he left be­cause gangs were charg­ing him rent to live in his own home.

Men­dez said it wasn’t fair that peo­ple talk of the mi­grants as crim­i­nals or bad peo­ple with gang mem­bers in their midst.

“It is not just that the good ones pay for the sinners,” he said.

Model Devon Wind­sor walks the run­way dur­ing the 2018 Vic­to­ria's Se­cret Fash­ion Show at Pier 94 on Thurs­day in New York. Photo: AP

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