A caravan of about 7,000 migrants heading towards Mexico and the United States is continuing to move forward despite threats and criticism from US politicians and President Donald Trump.
These immigration caravans have been organized and running since 2008, with the express goal of escaping poverty and inequality from Central American countries like Honduras to find better opportunities and lives in Mexico and the US.
In the Honduras, poverty, corruption and inequality make it difficult to live and thrive in the country. Protests caused by allegations and reports of election fraud during the most recent presidential elections ended with the deaths of 22 citizens at the hands of the security forces. The security forces also threaten political dissidents in the country.
As the government struggled with the protestors through force, the chaos has allowed criminal gangs to organize and thrive in the country. Citizens faced beatings by the security forces or the forceful recruitment of the many gangs scatter throughout.
Reformation remains to be seen in many aspects of the Honduran government. Faith in the government has decreased over corruption allegations and the murder of political dissidents. The government responded to the recent protests by shutting down transportation and limiting trade. These had led to about a 60 percent unemployment level and about a quarter of youth are not going to school or working. Most who do have jobs do not make enough to live or support their families.
Despite the allegations of human rights violations and corruption in the Honduran government, it still continues to receive millions of dollars of federal aid from the United States. Critics say the US has turned a blind eye to the corruption and rather decided to congratulate President Juan Orlando Hernandez, a vocal supporter of the US, on his victory in the election.
Due to these ongoing issues, immigration from the country has skyrocketed, with reported increases of migrants arriving in Mexico of about 166 percent from December to February, and a 66 percent increase of arrivals in the US from December to March. The caravans were created as a way to organize the immigration and prevent attacks by security forces and the gangs throughout Central America.
Many of the migrants in these caravans say that they risk going on these caravans because they have no other options. Some leave behind their families, while some bring their children and infants along. It is a long and exhausting trek, taking trains and other forms of transportation when possible, but walk when no other option is available.
President Trump has called out the governments of Guatemala and Mexico, threatening to cut off aid to any country that allows this and other caravans to continue moving north. For many, the intended goal is to find work in the United States.
Along the Mexico-Guatemala border, police lined the entrance into Mexico with riot shields equipped. They asked and pleaded the migrants to take steps to apply for legal immigration into the country, but many believe this is a tactic to round up the migrants and deport them. As they pressed forward, the police moved to the sides, some putting away their riot shields and leaving.
The immigration conflict in Mexico is exacerbated by the different stands the current and incoming administrations are taking on the caravan, with incoming President Andrés Manuel López Obrador promising not to down migrants so severely as the previous administration.
Mexico is also at odds with the United States government, as it does not want to appear as if it is bowing to the wills of a hostile President Trump. The two governments had clashed before over the building and funding of the border wall President Trump promised during his campaign. It is unknown what the response is for either government if the caravan manages to reach the US border.