Migrant caravan in southern Mexico marks Christmas Day by trudging onward

by Andrew Wright
Migrant Caravan

On Christmas Day, the migrant caravan traversing southern Mexico experienced the same harsh conditions as any other day of their journey. For these thousands of migrants, there were no festive presents to exchange, and their Christmas Eve dinner consisted of meager offerings: a simple sandwich, a bottle of water, and a banana, distributed by the Catholic church in the town of Álvaro Obregón, situated in the southern state of Chiapas, adjacent to Guatemala.

Christmas night offered little respite, with migrants finding themselves sleeping on whatever they could find – be it a scrap of cardboard, a piece of plastic beneath an awning or makeshift tent, or even the bare ground. The morning ritual remained unaltered, commencing at 4 a.m., as they aimed to start early and evade the sweltering heat while marching toward their next destination, Huixtla, which lay 20 miles (30 kilometers) away.

Karla Ramírez, a migrant from Honduras traveling with a group of adults and four children, reached Álvaro Obregón too late on Sunday to partake in the church’s food distribution. Consequently, they had to purchase whatever meager provisions they could afford. Ramírez described the situation as disheartening, as they had never experienced such dire circumstances. Their Christmas dinner comprised basic items like mortadella, butter, tomato, and tortillas.

Among the migrants was Mariela Amaya, accompanied by her seven-year-old son from Honduras, who struggled to comprehend why they were spending Christmas in such hardship. Amaya, sharing her frustration, lamented that neither the Mexican nor U.S. governments seemed to grasp their predicament, questioning why assistance was not forthcoming when it was so desperately needed.

This caravan of migrants included not only single adults but also entire families, all driven by a shared determination to reach the U.S. border. Their anger and frustration stemmed from having to endure weeks or even months of waiting in the nearby city of Tapachula for documents that might enable them to continue their journey. Although Mexico maintains that it does not issue transit visas, migrants continue to hope for some form of documentation that would at least allow them to use buses for part of their journey to the border.

Jessica García, a migrant from Venezuela, conveyed the collective sentiment, emphasizing the hardships of their journey and appealing to the Mexican immigration office and government for a safe conduct pass.

Mexico reported an astonishing 680,000 migrants passing through the country in the first 11 months of 2023. This Christmas caravan, numbering around 6,000 people, marked the largest such gathering since June 2022, when a similarly sized group set off from Tapachula. Coincidentally, this year’s Christmas caravan followed the pattern of the 2022 caravan, which coincided with a meeting of U.S. President Joe Biden and Latin American leaders in Los Angeles for the Summit of the Americas. As U.S. officials prepare to meet with their Mexican counterparts in Mexico City, discussions will focus on strategies to reduce the influx of migrants at the U.S. southwest border.

The Mexican government has expressed its willingness to cooperate in blocking migrants from crossing Mexico. This decision was prompted, in part, by the temporary closure of two vital Texas railway border crossings by U.S. authorities, citing overwhelming migrant processing demands. This closure disrupted freight transportation from Mexico to the United States and the supply of grain needed for Mexican livestock. While the rail crossings have since reopened, the message was clear.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to arrive in Mexico City, accompanied by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and White House homeland security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall. Their mission is to negotiate new agreements aimed at controlling the surge of migrants seeking entry into the United States. In recent months, the U.S. has witnessed as many as 10,000 daily migrant arrests at the southwest border, highlighting the urgency of finding effective solutions.

While Mexico had previously agreed to take in migrants from countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba, who were denied entry to the U.S. due to rule violations related to asylum and migration, this arrangement has proven insufficient as migration numbers continue to rise. This ongoing situation disrupts bilateral trade and fuels anti-migrant sentiments among conservative voters in the United States.

With over 2 million arrests for illegal crossings in each of the U.S. government’s last two fiscal years, the complex factors driving migration persist. These factors include technological advancements that make leaving home to escape poverty, natural disasters, political oppression, and organized crime more accessible for migrants.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Migrant Caravan

What is the migrant caravan in southern Mexico?

The migrant caravan in southern Mexico refers to a group of thousands of migrants, including single adults and families, who are journeying through southern Mexico with the ultimate goal of reaching the U.S. border.

How did they spend Christmas during their journey?

On Christmas, the migrants experienced challenging conditions with no traditional festivities. They received basic provisions, such as sandwiches, water, and bananas, from the Catholic church in the town of Álvaro Obregón. They slept on cardboard, plastic, or the ground, and their Christmas dinner consisted of modest items like mortadella, butter, tomatoes, and tortillas.

Why are these migrants making this difficult journey?

These migrants are determined to reach the U.S. border in pursuit of a better life. Many of them have spent weeks or months in the city of Tapachula, waiting for documents that would allow them to continue their journey.

What is the Mexican government’s stance on this issue?

Mexico has stated that it does not issue transit visas, but migrants continue to hope for some form of documentation that would facilitate their journey. The Mexican government has also expressed willingness to cooperate with the U.S. to address the migrant influx.

What is the significance of this Christmas caravan compared to previous ones?

This Christmas caravan, numbering around 6,000 people, is one of the largest since June 2022. It coincides with discussions between U.S. and Mexican officials on strategies to manage the flow of migrants at the U.S. southwest border, similar to the pattern observed in 2022.

What are the challenges faced by the U.S. government regarding migrants?

The U.S. government is grappling with a surge in migrant arrests at the southwest border, with as many as 10,000 daily arrests in recent months. This situation disrupts trade and stirs anti-migrant sentiments among U.S. conservative voters.

Why is the situation persisting despite previous agreements?

While Mexico had agreed to accept migrants from certain countries, such as Venezuela, who were denied entry to the U.S., this approach has proven insufficient as migration numbers continue to rise. Technological advancements and complex factors drive migration from home countries.

More about Migrant Caravan

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Observer22 December 26, 2023 - 4:19 pm

mexico nd US shud work 2gether, stop illegal crossings

Reader123 December 26, 2023 - 6:06 pm

so sad, migrants no hv xmas joy, they need help from gvmnt!

OpinionGuru December 26, 2023 - 6:22 pm

big problm, need solutions, affect trade n politics

HopefulSoul December 26, 2023 - 8:06 pm

bless their journey, hope they find bettr life!


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