A growing caravan of roughly 7,000 Central American immigrants continued its trek toward the United States on Sunday, blowing past Mexican police and immigration officials.
The group, which has swelled in size in recent days, set out before dawn on the only road out of the small Mexican border town of Ciudad Hidalgo. It arrived in the afternoon in the city of Tapachula, more than 20 miles away.
The migrants, nearly all from the poor and violent nation of Honduras, posed a growing political and humanitarian calamity for Mexico, which has come under intense pressure from President Trump to stop them.
On Friday, Mexican police used tear gas to block migrants from storming an official border crossing. But in the days since, Mexico has appeared unwilling to use force to stop the thousands of people who have illegally crossed the Suchiate River from Guatemala into Mexico and started walking north.
That may be in part because the migrants include hundreds of women and small children, some in strollers. It could also be because of the daunting size of the caravan, which stretched for at least two miles.
As the caravan headed north Sunday in the 90-degree heat, another group of roughly 1,500 migrants waited on the Guatemalan side of the river, hoping to enter Mexico legally.
Authorities said more than 1,000 caravan members already have entered legally and applied for refugee status in Mexico and are being detained while their applications are processed.
The migrants left Honduras more than a week ago and began arriving several days ago at the Guatemalan border town of Tecun Uman, just across the river from Ciudad Hidalgo.
Most say they intend to cross into the United States, not seek refuge in Mexico. Some complain that they were unable to find work in Honduras. Others say they are fleeing violence or political repression there and hope to apply for asylum in the U.S.
Ingrid Andino, her husband and their two children left their small town in Honduras about a month ago after a local gang started pressuring her 16-year-old son to sell drugs. “They were going to kill him or kill us,” she said.
Andino said her family stayed with relatives in another town for a time before seeing the caravan on the news and deciding to join.
On Sunday, she and her family walked north in a line, holding hands, while she carried a bag containing the family’s possessions balanced on her head.
Trump has made the caravan a campaign issue at rallies across the country ahead of the U.S. midterm elections, calling it a menace to national security. He has threatened Mexico and Central American countries with economic reprisal if they fail to stop the migrants and vowed to send the military to close the U.S. border should the group make it that far.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, under pressure from Trump, has said repeatedly that no migrants will be allowed to enter the country in an “irregular” manner. Mexico’s deterrence of those who tried to storm the official border crossing Friday drew praise from Trump.
But when droves of people began crossing the river, swimming or boarding rafts, Mexican police and immigration agents just watched.
Gerardo Hernandez, head of the civil protection agency in the municipality of Suchiate, Chiapas, said that as of Saturday night, 7,233 immigrants had been registered at a shelter in Ciudad Hidalgo.