The Mexican government said late Monday it will disband the caravan of more than 1,000 Central American migrants that has been traveling north to the U.S. border for the past nine days.
Mexico’s National Institute of Immigration (INAMI) will grant humanitarian visas to certain vulnerable individuals within the group, such as as pregnant women and people with disabilities, reports BuzzFeed’s Adolfo Perez, who is embedded with the caravan. The remaining migrants will have to petition the Mexican government to stay, or they will be ordered to return to their home countries.
The caravan, which numbers about 1,200, is currently in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Organized by the group Pueblos Sin Fronteras (People Without Borders), it has been trekking north through Mexico with the aim of drawing attention to “migrant rights” and, potentially, applying for asylum in the U.S.
In a statement released Monday night, the Mexican foreign ministry said 400 of the migrants in the caravan entered Mexico illegally and had already been repatriated. The remaining migrants will be subjected to an “administrative migration procedure,” the government said, though it was unclear how many marchers would be allowed to continue their journey to the U.S. border.
The moves follow intense criticism from President Donald Trump, who publicly vented his frustration with the Mexican government for allowing the caravan to travel unimpeded. In a series of tweets over the weekend, Trump threatened to use ongoing NAFTA negotiations to punish Mexico for what he said was inaction on illegal immigration.
“Mexico is doing very little, if not NOTHING, at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their Southern Border, and then into the U.S.,” he tweeted Sunday. “They laugh at our dumb immigration laws. They must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. NEED WALL!”
Trump went on to blast “weak” U.S. immigration laws, saying they were inviting illegal immigration across the southwest border.
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The Mexican government addressed Trump’s criticism Monday, saying in a statement that it has followed national immigration law in the case of the Pueblos Sin Fronteras caravan and “does not make immigration decisions for the United States or any other nation.”
“Mexico’s migration policy is a sovereign one, through which it seeks to ensure legal, safe and orderly migration with full respect for people’s rights,” the statement said, according to Voice of America. “Under no circumstances does the Mexican government promote irregular migration.”
Mexico has been aggressive in deporting illegal immigrants from Central America in recent years, a fact Trump noted Tuesday in a tweet praising Mexico’s “very strong” border laws. It deported roughly twice as many Central Americans as the U.S. did in 2015 and 2016, according to Mexican and American government figures compiled by the Migration Policy Institute.
In January and February, Mexico deported more than 12,000 Central American migrants, according to a report from the country’s interior ministry.
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