Hundreds of caravan migrants enter Guatemala

Honduran migrants marching on after breaking through a police cordon in Agua Caliente. Nearly 150 were turned away because they lacked documents.
Honduran migrants marching on after breaking through a police cordon in Agua Caliente. Nearly 150 were turned away because they lacked documents.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

AGUA CALIENTE (Guatemala) • Several hundred Honduran migrants in a new United States-bound caravan have crossed into Guatemala, as US President Donald Trump seized on news of the advancing group to try to build support for a wall along his country's border with Mexico.

About 360 Hondurans presented documents on Tuesday to pass legally through the Agua Caliente border crossing separating the two Central American nations.

An additional 350 Hondurans crossed into Guatemalan territory but were being detained by migration officials checking their documents, according to pro-migrant activists travelling with them.

Some migrants ran towards the port of entry, where they were met by a large group of Guatemalan police, and nearly 150 were turned away because they lacked proper documents, police said.

"Those who (lack documents) will be turned back," said Ms Alejandra Mena, a spokesman for Guatemala's migration authority.

A second group of about 300 Honduran migrants walked along a highway and were expected to reach the same border crossing yesterday, said activists, while a smaller group of about 50 migrants had gathered in at a plaza in the capital of El Salvador with the intention of joining the caravan.

Central American caravans heading towards the US have inflamed the debate over the country's immigration policy, with Mr Trump drawing attention to the migrants to try to win backing for his plan to build a wall on the US-Mexico border.

 
 

As a partial government shutdown reached its 25th day, Mr Trump invoked the new caravan on Twitter to pressure US lawmakers. Democrats have resisted his insistence that Congress provide US$5.7 billion (S$7.7 billion) for wall funding.

"A big new caravan is heading up to our Southern Border from Honduras," he tweeted on Tuesday. "Only a wall or steel barrier will keep our country safe! Stop playing political games and end the shutdown!"

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

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2019, with the headline 'Hundreds of caravan migrants enter Guatemala'. Print Edition | Subscribe