'We're head­ing north!' Mi­grants nix of­fer to stay in Mex­ico

The Progress-Index Weekend - - OPINION - By Christo­pher Sher­man

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.

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