Hundreds of Central Americans from the migrant caravan that drew indignation from President Trump are now waiting near the U.S. border in Tijuana, with thousands more expected to arrive within days.
Caravan members say they are undeterred by warnings from the Trump administration that few will be granted political asylum and those who claim it will face long detentions as they wait for court appearances.
“Maybe Trump will change his mind,” said Paula Quintanilla, 26, a Honduran national traveling with her 11-year-old son, both of whom were among multitudes walking along a highway on Tuesday headed north from the Mexican city of Guadalajara. “We’ve gone through a lot. We can’t go back now.”
Her group of several thousand migrants was advancing toward Mexico’s Sonora state, which borders Arizona.
Trump, who labeled the caravan an “invasion,” called its members “very bad thugs and gang members” and deployed troops to the Southwest border, has made only scant public mention of the issue since last week’s U.S. midterm elections.
But the caravan has kept moving, no longer a single column but disjointed groups and stragglers spread out for hundreds of miles in western Mexico.
The caravan consists of roughly 5,500 people, mostly Honduran citizens, according to Mexican authorities. The group set off a month ago from Honduras and crossed illegally into southern Mexico from Guatemala about a week later.
Caravan members have since traveled more than 1,000 miles through Mexico on foot and in vehicles.
Some have peeled off and returned home, or applied for refugee status to remain in Mexico. But others — including some citizens of Mexico — have joined the northbound voyagers en route.
Many participants say traveling with large groups is safer and cheaper than paying thousands of dollars to smugglers.
“Maybe there is a chance we can get in,” said Guillermo Vizcarra, 59, a Mexican citizen who said he joined the caravan in Mexico because he was keen to see his 28-year-old daughter, who lives in the Chicago area, and two grandchildren, ages 8 and 2. “It’s worth a try,” added Vizcarra, who spoke on the highway headed north from Guadalajara.
Officials in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second most populous city, said they had provided aid in recent days to more than 6,000 northbound migrants, including Central Americans, Mexicans and South Americans.
On Wednesday, hundreds of caravan members remained stuck on roads in western Mexico after traveling through Guadalajara. Mexican police and other authorities were trying to get them off the highway and gather the migrants together in safe areas while arranging for rides north.
Chaotic scenes unfolded beneath highway overpasses and at toll plazas as migrants lugging backpacks, sleeping rolls and other luggage jumped on tractor trailers, pickups and other vehicles. Some begged for coins from motorists. Many assailed Mexican authorities for not providing buses.
“This was one of hardest stretches,” said Jose Ryneris de Benavidez as he arrived at a gas station along a rural stretch of highway in the western state of Nayarit, where police were securing transportation for exhausted migrants and aid workers provided food, water and medical attention.
“We walked and walked, and couldn’t find a ride all day until the end,” said Ryneris, who had traveled from Honduras with his wife and their two small children.
Among those providing assistance at the gas station was a contingent of Catholic nuns who have been traveling with the caravan for weeks.
“Keep your spirits up! We are getting closer!” Sister Berta Lopez Chavez advised a group. “Once in Tijuana, we are in God’s hands.”