'We're heading north!' Migrants nix offer to stay in Mexico
ARRIAGA, Mexico — Hundreds of Mexican federal officers carrying plastic shields blocked a Central American caravan from advancing toward the United States on Saturday, after a group of several thousand migrants turned down the chance to apply for refugee status and obtain a Mexican offer of benefits.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has announced what he called the “You are at home” plan, offering shelter, medical attention, schooling and jobs to Central Americans in Chiapas and Oaxaca states if migrants apply, calling it a first step toward permanent refugee status. Authorities said more than 1,700 had already applied for refugee status.
But a standoff unfolded as federal police officers blocked the highway, saying there was an operation underway to stop the caravan. Thousands of migrants waited to advance, vowing to continue their long trek toward the U.S. border.
At a meeting brokered by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission, police said they would reopen the highway and only wanted an opportunity for federal authorities to explain the proposal to migrants who had rejected it the previous evening. Migrants countered that the middle of a highway was no place to negotiate and said they wanted to at least arrive safely to Mexico City.