New migrant caravan sets out from Honduras for US

Hundreds of Honduran migrants trekked out of a bus station in a violent northern city on Tuesday to join a new caravan of people hoping to reach Mexico or the United States.

The first groups left San Pedro Sula’s bus station Monday night, with many women and children boarding buses for the Guatemalan border while others started walking and hitchhiking west under a steady rain.

Groups continued to depart the station Tuesday, trying to catch up with the others. Most carried small knapsacks and walked along busy roads exiting the city. Some pushed children in strollers or walked holding older children’s hands.

As they walked, some migrants pleaded with local store owners to give them food or water for their journey.

More people continued to arrive at the bus station, making it likely the caravan’s numbers would grow.

President Donald Trump quickly seized on the new caravan as justification for the wall he wants to build on the border with Mexico — a demand that has led to a partial government shutdown because Trump says he won’t sign a spending bill without it.

“A big new Caravan is heading up to our Southern Border from Honduras,” he tweeted on Tuesday, adding that to stop the migrants, “Only a Wall will work. Only a Wall, or Steel Barrier, will keep our Country safe!”

He had used caravans last year to rally his base ahead of the mid-term congressional elections.

Bartolo Fuentes, a migrant advocate accompanying the caravan, said Tuesday that migration wouldn’t stop until the situation in Honduras of poverty and crime changes.

“People leave every day,” he said. “Every day 300, 400 people go. The caravan has been like a constant river of people to Mexico, to the United States. What happens is it wasn’t visible.”

Caravans last spring and fall grew beyond expectations as desperate Central Americans saw them as a safer way to move along the historic migration routes. It also opened the possibility of migration to people who did not have thousands of dollars to pay a smuggler.

In those caravans, the migrants found safety in numbers and some communities provided them food and services along the route. Fuentes said other smaller groups had also left Tegucigalpa on buses for the Guatemalan border.

“In a caravan or alone, the people are going to continue going because they can’t take what is happening in Honduras,” Fuentes said.

One woman, who refused to give her name because of safety concerns, said Monday night her 9-year-old daughter had already been raped so badly she suffered medical problems.

The mother, who worked at a bakery, said she was taking her daughter and 13-year-old son to the United States and would ask for asylum or refugee status, “because it’s not possible to live in Honduras anymore.”

The new caravan is almost certain to both raise tensions and garner support along its route through Guatemala and Mexico to the U.S. border.

It was unclear whether the migrants planned to go to Tijuana, the Mexican border city where thousands of migrants from the first three caravans have been largely marooned since November.


AP writer Christopher Sherman in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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