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Honduran Migrant Caravan Grows as it Moves Toward the US

Honduran family Nolvia Luja, left, Willian Bonilla, and their son Wilmer Bonilla, who attended the annual Migrants Stations of the Cross caravan for migrants' rights, rest at a shelter in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco state, Mexico, April 18, 2018.

The migrant caravan that started in San Pedro Sula in northern Honduras has grown as it crosses the country.

Some are walking. Some are in vehicles. But they all seem to have a common goal -- they want a better life.

Many of them want to seek that life in the United States.

March organizer Bartolo Fuentes told Reuters that participants are fleeing poverty and violence back home.

San Pedro Sula has one of the world's highest murder rates.

Sixty-four percent of the households in Honduras live in poverty.

The population of the caravan has swelled to an estimated 1,700 from the initial 1,000 who left San Pedro Sula.

Word of the mass migration has spread through local and social media.

Many had already planned to leave Honduras and felt traveling in a large group would lessen their chances of falling victim to robbery and assault.

The Associated Press reports that "families arrived with infants in their arms and toddlers in strollers...most carrying little more than a backpack."

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence recently told the presidents of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to stop the mass migrations.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, at ICE headquarters, July 6, 2018, in Washington.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, at ICE headquarters, July 6, 2018, in Washington.

"Tell your people: Don't put your families at risk by taking the dangerous journey north to attempt to enter the United States illegally," Pence said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to cut off aid from countries that allow the caravans to pass through their countries.

But that means little to people who are poor already and want better for themselves and their children.

"There's a misery and a violence that is overwhelming people," Dunia Montoya, a volunteer helping the migrant in Honduras told the Associated Press. "People no longer have faith in this country and they are fleeing."

Sunday night the convoy arrived in Ocotepeque, near the border with Guatemala. The caravan will attempt to cross into Guatemala Monday and then trek to Mexico.

Some migrants will seek refugee status in Mexico, while others will request a visa to enter the United States. Some who are not granted visas will try to enter the U.S. illegally.

Mexico issued a statement Saturday saying it does not issue entry visas for people who do not meet "the requirements to transit toward a neighboring country." Mexico also said it issues visas at its consulates abroad, not at border entry points.

Roberto Castro, a 26-year old bus driver and construction worker, when he can find work, joined the caravan because he had put his two young children and their mother on a bus two weeks ago, from San Pedro Sula, and he has not heard from them in days.

He hopes to find them at one of the waystations between Honduras and the U.S.

"It hurts," he told the Associated Press, between tears, "because one just wants an opportunity."