The caravan of thousands of Honduran migrants marching towards the U.S. dramatically turned around as they reached the Mexican border in Guatemala on Friday morning, a day after hundreds of their comrades faced off with police.
US President Donald Trump threatened Thursday to send the military to the Mexican border and to imperil a trade deal in an intensification of his anti-immigrant rhetoric ahead of congressional elections.
The news comes as families entering the USA illegally have reached a record high, prompting a demand from President Donald Trump that Central American countries and Mexico take steps to correct the situation immediately. Defense Secretary James Mattis later authorized the National Guard to deploy up to 4,000 troops on the southern border.
He said the caravan includes criminals and he blamed the Democratic Party, claiming they advocate for open borders and weak immigration laws. Any who are determined to have a legitimate claim will begin the process of being placed in a host country - which may or may not be the USA - and the rest will be sent packing.
And the president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has pledged to issue work visas for Central Americans in a bid to retain workers in the area rather than seeing them moving to the US.
Mexico did not immediately respond to Trump's latest tweets about immigration.
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Migrants have been known to cross the river on rafts for years - sometimes encountering authorities along the way, sometimes meeting little resistance as they slipped into Mexico and continued their journey north.
Foreign Minister Videgaray said his government had asked the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help process the migrants in order to guarantee transparency and so that Mexico could cope with a "higher volume of requests".
Migrants who have already arrived at the Mexican border have been sleeping in churches, fire stations and refugee shelters.
"This is a moral outrage", Schmidt said, invoking "slave auction blocks and separation of Native American families".
To put that in context, in the early 2000s the authorities were arresting 1.5 million undocumented immigrants a year, while in 2018 so far there have been under 400,000 people detained. The migrants have begun arriving at the Guatemalan side of the Mexican border.
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales on Wednesday dismissed threatened curbs to foreign aid, and said he had spoken with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez about ensuring the migrants who want to return home can do so safely. And he threatened to send troops to "shut down" the southern USA border if Mexico failed to stop what he called an "onslaught".