Trump Tweets Transform Immigrant Caravans Into Political Cause Célèbre

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“We are not anarchists,” Mr. Mujica continued. “We try to help people to know their rights, things that we as human beings should be doing, try to advocate for human, sensible solutions.”

Late Monday, Mexican immigration officials began negotiations with caravan organizers about how to deal with the migrants.

Alex Mensing, project coordinator for Pueblo Sin Fronteras, said that the Mexican authorities had agreed to provide eligible migrants with humanitarian visas permitting them to remain in the country legally. Others would be provided with temporary transit passes, which usually last 20 days, allowing them to visit an immigration office and begin the process to legalize their status or travel to the United States border to apply for asylum or some other form of protection, Mr. Mensing said.

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry and Interior Ministry, in a statement issued jointly late Monday, said the authorities had already deported 400 participants in the caravan since the event began more than a week ago, but confirmed that they were offering protections to the migrants “in cases where this is appropriate.”

“Under no circumstances does the Mexican government promote irregular migration,” the statement said.

Mr. Mensing said that processing details were still being worked out between government officials and the caravan organizers, but warned that should the process take too long, “it’s very possible that the caravan will reignite.”

The migrant group left the southern Mexican border town of Tapachula on March 25, at that point numbering about 700. Most of the participants were from Honduras and many of them said they were fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries, organizers said. Some say they were inspired to flee Honduras following the violent suppression of political protests that erupted after last year’s presidential election.


Border Patrol agents apprehended illegal immigrants near the United States border with Mexico last week near McAllen, Tex.

Loren Elliott/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Over the past week, the group grew in size, to about 1,200 by the time it arrived in Matías Romero.

But organizers said that contrary to the vision of a migrant onslaught on America conjured by Mr. Trump, most participants do not intend to travel as far as the border of the United States.

“He’s trying to paint this as if we are trying to go to the border, and we’re going to storm the border,” Mr. Mujica said.

Mr. Mensing added: “We’re definitely not looking for some kind of showdown.”

In an interview Monday, before negotiations between the Mexican immigration authorities and the caravan organizers began, Mr. Mujica predicted that at most 10 percent to 15 percent of the participants would seek asylum at the American border.

He said he expected many others to drop out along the way, especially if the caravan continued along its intended route through the state of Puebla and on to Mexico City, with some participants applying for asylum or other forms of protection in Mexico.

In Puebla, Pueblo Sin Fronteras plans to hold workshops, led by volunteer lawyers, to teach migrants about options for legal protections in the region, including in Mexico and the United States.

“We don’t promote going to the United States,” Mr. Mensing said. “It’s a challenging place to seek asylum.”

In recent years, Mexico has become an increasingly attractive destination in its own right for Central Americans and others seeking sanctuary from economic hardship and violence in their home countries, even though advocates say the nation’s asylum program remains deeply flawed.

“We are trying — as Mexicans, as Americans — to find solutions,” said Mr. Mujica, a Mexican-American who holds dual citizenship.

In his Twitter posts on Sunday, Mr. Trump also asserted that many migrants trying to cross the border into the United States were seeking to “take advantage of” the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that has provided protected status to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought to the country as children. Mr. Trump announced last year that he was ending the program but was open to keeping it.

On Monday, advisers said that the president was also alluding to a perception, supposedly held by many Central American migrants, that as part of efforts to salvage DACA, Congress may soon agree to legislation that would permit unauthorized immigrants to remain in the United States.

But migrant-rights advocates, including coordinators of the latest caravan traversing Mexico, said these assertions were a White House invention.

“It’s laughable!” Mr. Mujica said. “Most of the people don’t even know what DACA is. They know that it’s almost impossible to get into the United States. They know that they’re deporting everyone.”

On Sunday, even Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs, Luis Videgaray, weighed in, apparently in response Mr. Trump’s tweets that accused Mexico of lax immigration enforcement.

“Every day Mexico and the U.S. work together on migration throughout the region,” he said on Twitter. “Facts clearly reflect this. An inaccurate news report should not serve to question this strong cooperation. Upholding human dignity and rights is not at odds with the rule of law. Happy Easter.”

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