US-bound Honduran migrant caravan grows as Trump argues for wall

A Guatemalan policeman looks at Honduran migrants heading to the United States with a second caravan on Jan 15, 2019.
A Guatemalan policeman looks at Honduran migrants heading to the United States with a second caravan on Jan 15, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS (REUTERS) - A new United States-bound caravan of Honduran migrants grew to nearly 1,000 people as it neared the Guatemalan border on Tuesday (Jan 15), a Honduran official said, while US President Donald Trump seized on news of the group to try to drum up support for a border wall.

Honduran Deputy Foreign Minister Nelly Jerez told reporters that there were between 800 and 1,000 people travelling together and headed toward the Agua Caliente border crossing into Guatemala.

Central American migrant caravans heading towards the US have inflamed the debate over American immigration policy, with Mr Trump using the groups to seek backing for his plan to build a wall on the US-Mexico border.

Television footage on Tuesday showed groups of mostly young men, carrying bags of belongings, leaving the notoriously violent Honduran city of San Pedro Sula and flagging down rides to catch up with the caravan that left the same city on Monday.

"I am going to the United States to see if there is an opportunity to work because here in Honduras there is nothing," a 25-year-old named Cristian told reporters.

The group will likely face weeks of travel to get to the US border.

Around 2,500 migrants from a previous wave of Central Americans who crossed Mexico have been camping in squalid shelters in the Mexican border city of Tijuana.

 
 
 

Mr Trump has described the migrants as an invading force and sent troops to reinforce the border last year. On Monday, the Pentagon announced it would extend the deployment of around 2,350 troops to the US border through the end of September.

As a partial government shutdown dragged into its 25th day on Tuesday, Mr Trump invoked the new caravan on Twitter to pressure US lawmakers.

Democrats have resisted Trump's insistence that Congress shell out US$5.7 billion (S$7.7 billion) for wall funding.

"A big new Caravan is heading up to our Southern Border from Honduras," Mr Trump said. "Only a Wall, or Steel Barrier, will keep our Country safe! Stop playing political games and end the Shutdown!"