TAPACHULA (Reuters) – A US-bound caravan of thousands of mostly Honduran migrants whom President Donald Trump has declared unwelcome, crowded into the Mexican border city of Tapachula on Sunday, setting up impromptu camps in public spaces under a heavy rain.
Members of the caravan, exhausted from the hours-long trek on foot from the Guatemalan border, mostly ignored police offers to board buses heading to a migrant shelter because of suspicions they might be deported instead.
The migrants have defied threats by Mr Trump that he will close the US-Mexico border if the caravan advances, as well as warnings from the Mexican government that they risk deportation if they cannot justify seeking asylum in Mexico.
On Sunday, Mr Trump said on Twitter that “full efforts are being made to stop the onslaught of illegal aliens,” arguing that the migrants must apply for asylum in Mexico before attempting to petition US authorities.
In southern Mexico, police in riot gear shadowed the caravan’s arrival along a southern highway, but did not impede their journey.
In Guatemala, local media reported that around 1,000 migrants were travelling north en route to the Mexican border.
A large column of people marched under a burning sun Sunday as a military helicopter circled low overhead. Many migrants said they were fleeing a toxic mix of violence, poverty and corruption in Central America.
Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador supported the caravan and promised to provide people with work permits in a speech to supporters in Tuxtla-Gutierrez, about 180 miles north of Tapachula.
Since the convoy formed last weekend, Mr Trump has threatened to halt aid to Honduras and Guatemala, and potentially close the US border with Mexico with the help of the military if the migrants’ march is not stopped.
Mexico’s government has said throughout the past week that it would register the migrants and process requests for asylum. Those attempting to skip the process would face deportation, but the size of the caravan will test Mexico, which has sought help from the United Nations to manage the issue.