A large, U.S.-bound group of Central American migrants that President Donald Trump has been attacking all week reached Mexico’s southern border Friday and started to cross over after a clash with law enforcement.
The caravan of mostly Honduran nationals stopped before the Mexico-Guatemala border Friday morning and temporarily retreated, The Associated Press reported. Hundreds of Mexican police officers in riot gear awaited the group of up to 4,000 would-be asylum-seekers.
Some then rushed a border fence and attempted to push their way through, prompting police to deploy smoke canisters, according to the AP. When the crowd calmed, authorities began allowing people to pass over the border.
Some were distrustful of buses that arrived to ferry the women, children and elderly migrants to be processed, the AP noted. They chanted, “Walk! Walk!”
In video shot at the scene Friday afternoon, CNN’s Bill Weir said a “teeming mass of humanity” was waiting to pass through a white metal fence ― women and children first.
Trump spent much of the past week complaining about the caravan. The group formed in Honduras on Saturday, the latest in a series of caravans going back to around 2008 to help people living in violent and corrupt Central American nations.
On Tuesday, Trump threatened to halt aid to Honduras if its leader did not somehow stop the caravan from moving northward. Trump threatened on Thursday to seal the U.S. border in order to discourage the caravan, claiming without evidence that “many criminals” were among the group. Later that day he said, again without evidence, that Democrats were somehow supporting the caravan because they figure “everybody coming in is going to vote Democrat.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with his Mexican counterpart, Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, on Friday in an attempt to negotiate a plan on dealing with the large group. Mexico has sought help from the United Nations’ refugee agency, which may have the effect of dispersing the caravan.
Several of the migrants told The New York Times they hoped to pursue a better life for themselves and their families. Most brought scant few belongings with them; one family of five shared two suitcases.
“There isn’t work or anything. You can’t live in Honduras,” a 16-year-old female farmworker told the paper. “There isn’t money. There’s no help from the government. There’s nothing.”
The president has repeatedly claimed that the migrants, and immigrants more broadly, lead to increased crime rates and allow illegal substances to pass over the border, although statistics suggest they do not.
Trump reacted with equal contempt toward another group that embarked on a similar journey to the southern U.S. border in the spring, warning that none of the migrants would be allowed to cross. More than 150 members of that group crossed the border and sought asylum.