VILLA COMALTITLAN (Mexico) -- On Thursday, a group of migrants who once numbered over 5,000 decided to split and walk through southern Mexico towards the U.S. border.
About 2,000 mostly younger male migrants started walking from Huixtla on Thursday.
However, a large number of families with young children decided to wait in Huixtla until they could apply for a temporary visa. After walking 25 miles, the families were exhausted after leaving Tapachula on Monday.
Nearly all migrants want to get to the U.S. border. None of the migrant caravans crossing Mexico in 2018 has ever made it all the way to the border. It is more than 1,000 miles north.
Although some caravan participants did cross the border, this was because they took bus or car rides. This is something that the government is trying to stop.
Junior Ramirez, a Venezuelan immigrant, waited with 15 family members at an Immigration Institute post outside Huixtla while he waited for papers. The migrants slept outdoors on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Ramirez stated that "up to now they haven’t told us whether or not they will give them to us." "Other migrants got them and fled. We just want to keep going."
Luis Garcia Villagran is a migrant advocate who traveled with the caravan and said that Mexican authorities have been granting the equivalent of exit visas to migrants, which allow them between one and three months to leave Mexico.
According to theory, a migrant with such papers would either seek asylum or leave Mexico (presumably across the U.S. frontier) and not be sent back home.
Mendoza Rojas stated, "It's all confusing," referring to the fact migrants tried to create their own lists of people who would be eligible to receive papers. "There are approximately 40 lists and some people have left without papers."
Two months ago, the couple fled Venezuela with their 1-year old child. They applied for asylum in Tapachula. They couldn't get an appointment for August and didn't have enough money to wait, so they left Venezuela and began walking north.
He said, "We don’t know what to do yet."
This caravan is the largest of the year and includes a significant number of Venezuelans. One factor is a Mexican policy change that required Venezuelans to obtain a visa in order to enter the country.
Before this change, Venezuelans flew to Mexico City or Cancun to visit their relatives and then traveled to the border. Many people made it to the U.S. border within four days.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the number of encounters with Venezuelans at their southwest border plummeted from 22,779 in Jan to 3,073 February. There were 4,103 encounters in April, the latest month available.
However, the flow of Venezuelan migrants continues. According to Panama's National Migration Service, over half of the 34,000 migrants crossing the Darien Gap between Colombia, Panama and Panama in January were Venezuelans.
The visa requirement caused the influx of Venezuelans into shadows. The caravan is just one visible indicator of who is travelling through Mexico without being seen. Other Venezuelans may have turned to smugglers.
Mexico's government offered to help migrants get to legalization faster in other cities by offering to disband other caravans. Sometimes, the government tried to exhaust the migrants by stopping passing buses and trucks from giving them rides.
Representatives meeting at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles this week emphasized the importance of reaching consensus on managing migration flows within the region.