The largest migrant caravan to date this year has mostly dissipated, but that doesn’t mean that thousands more migrants are no longer headed to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Members of the migrant caravan initially gathered in the city of Tapachula on the Mexican side of the Mexico-Guatemala border and set off on their march towards the United States in the second week of June. While the caravan formed in and departed from a Mexican town, the bulk of the caravan’s members were from Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. There were also Haitians, Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Guatemalans in the mix. Individuals from India, Bangladesh, and some African countries were also spotted in the caravan’s ranks.
The caravan topped out at around 11,000 members. The organizer of the caravan, Luís Villagrán of the Center for Human Dignification, claimed that nearly 70 percent of the caravan’s members were women and children, from newborns to elderly individuals in their seventies. But a quick Google search for images of the caravan before it dispersed seems to suggest that the composition of the caravan was not, in fact, 70 percent women and children. If the scores of photos of the caravan are representative of the whole, men—particularly younger, working-age men—made up more than 30 percent of the caravan’s members.
It’s no surprise that Villagrán might lie about the composition of his caravan, or at least feign ignorance and embellish the truth. Previously, Villagrán organized other caravans during the Trump administration’s tenure, as well as several others last year, though those caravans also dispersed on the trek north.
What is surprising, however, is Villagrán’s candor about the fact that these caravans are nothing more than a political stunt. “Immigration is used as a political tool. These women and children are like coins to be exchanged,” declared Villagrán.
Prior to the caravan’s departure, the Mexican National Migration Institute (INM), while not typically helpful towards such caravans, wrote a letter to Villagrán expressing sympathy for migrants and promising to protect them. “It’s very possible [Mexican President Andrés Manuel López] Obrador wants to use this caravan to look like a humanitarian before the Summit of the Americas,” the letter read, which is partly why Villagrán scheduled the caravan’s departure to line up with the summit.
Villagrán clearly doesn’t feel ashamed. But he should. Though there might be truth in the old saying “there’s safety in the herd,” joining these massive caravans still involves serious risk. As word spreads that these caravans are passing through certain Mexican communities, it attracts the worst of humanity. Migrants risk becoming victims of sexual assault or rape or falling prey to human smugglers, coyotes, and cartels, not to mention the possibility of injury, disease, or death due to the physical toll of the journey.
After traveling fewer than 25 miles over the course of about a week, the INM announced that Mexican authorities granted members of the caravan documentation providing these individuals legal status in Mexico as they make their way to the U.S.
Mexican law prevents migrants from traveling beyond Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas without this documentation, a provision put in place during the Trump-era migrant crisis from 2018 to 2019. Though the caravan was not close to leaving Chiapas—again, it only traveled about 25 miles—Mexican authorities decided to grant the caravan members legal status anyways. It is estimated that upwards of 9,000 individuals have received the legal status needed to continue north.
The INM said the documentation means “migrants are prevented from being victims of criminals who are dedicated to human trafficking or traffickers who expose the migrants to unsafe conditions.”
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