Migrant caravan approaches Texas borderlands as asylum policies stiffen

Migrant caravan approaches Texas borderlands as asylum policies stiffen
Central American migrants settle in a shelter at the Jesus Martinez stadium in Mexico City, in Mexico City, Monday, Jan. 28. (Source: AP Photo/Marco Ugarte/AP)

(Gray News) – A new caravan of Central American migrants is arriving at the borderlands across from South Texas, as President Donald Trump makes them a central issue ahead of his State of the Union address.

Both Fox News and Al Jazeera have reported on the caravan, which for the most part formed in and departed from Honduras on Jan. 15.

Al Jazeera reported that an advance group from that caravan, numbering about 1,400 people, arrived on Sunday in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila.

The border town of Piedras Negras, in Coahuila, sits some 150 miles southeast of San Antonio, and about 110 miles northeast of Laredo. Fox reported that 2,000 of the migrants were headed for the city on Monday.

Many of them have obtained one-year humanitarian visas from the Mexican government, according to Al Jazeera. In most instances they are fleeing violence and precarious economic conditions in Central American nations like Honduras and El Salvador.

“People cannot live in Honduras,” a migrant from that country, Juan Alberto Orellano, told Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera reported that in the second half of January, Mexico processed more than 15,500 humanitarian visa requests at its southern border.

A number of caravans have made their way through Mexico since last year, making varying degrees of progress toward the U.S. border. The majority have remained in Mexico, and many have abandoned trying to reach the U.S. as the Trump administration has promised a stiff response to unauthorized border crossings.

Nonetheless, asylum claims at the southern border saw a 67 percent increase last year from 2017, with 92,959 claims of “credible fear” of conditions in their home country.

According to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), credible fear claims are processed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The administration this week began implementing a policy of making asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for court hearings on their status in the U.S. Those are usually months away.

“I want to apply for asylum in the U.S., but I would stay in Mexico if I had to,” a migrant, Jimmy Senteno, told The Washington Post when the caravan set out in mid-January. “I know only some in the last caravan made it, but I have to try.”

The city of Tijuana has absorbed many of the migrants, and Al Jazeera reported another caravan departed Tapachula, near Mexico’s southern border, intending to go to Tijuana.

With news of long asylum waits and the strain on public services and infrastructure there, Al Jazeera reported some of the migrants are already changing plans to travel to other border areas.

Trump has frequently used the caravans to prop up his argument that a wall or barrier is necessary across stretches of the southern border where there currently is not one.

“With caravans marching through Mexico and toward our Country, Republicans must be prepared to do whatever is necessary for STRONG Border Security,” he tweeted on Sunday.

He has frequently said illegal immigration brings waves of drug and human trafficking and increases in crime.

While undocumented immigrants themselves face dangerous conditions from traffickers, animals and the weather, there is no evidence they commit crime at higher rates one they enter the U.S.

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