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Mexico Offering Refugee Status to Some in Migrant Caravan


Migrant shelter director Jose Garcia, right, gives a few coins to two men from Guatemala on their way to cross into the United States in Tijuana, Mexico, Nov. 14, 2016.

The Mexican government says it is offering refugee status to eligible members of a caravan of migrants from Central American countries, which had earlier drawn alarmed tweets from U.S. President Donald Trump about the need to strengthen his country's borders.

A statement late Monday from the Mexican interior and foreign affairs ministries noted the caravans made up largely of people from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have made similar trips since 2010 calling attention to migrant rights, particularly those fleeing dangerous situations at home in search of protection elsewhere.

"Mexico's migration policy is a sovereign one, through which it seeks to ensure legal, safe and orderly migration with full respect for people's rights," the statement said. "Under no circumstances does the Mexican government promote irregular migration."

The ministries said that due to Mexican law, authorities have sent 400 caravan members back to their home countries.

The caravan of about 1,100 people was organized by Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People without Borders), which on Monday called the asylum processes in the United States and Mexico "punitive and unjust." Two smaller caravans reached the United States last year.

Gina Garibo, a spokesperson for the group, told VOA it is an organization that fights alongside the migrants in order to battle for their rights.

Alex Mensing, one of the group's coordinators, said on Twitter those in the caravan pressured Mexico "into conceding permission to travel to places where they can seek asylum."

Pueblo Sin Fronteras also highlighted the number of Hondurans in the group, saying their presence was the result of political crises in the region "provoked in large part by the policies of the U.S. government."

Boys look through an older section of the border structure from Mexicali, Mexico, alongside a newly constructed, taller section, left, in Calexico, Calif., March 5, 2018.
Boys look through an older section of the border structure from Mexicali, Mexico, alongside a newly constructed, taller section, left, in Calexico, Calif., March 5, 2018.

Trump made a series of Twitter posts Monday describing U.S. border security as weak and calling on Mexico to take strong action to stop people from passing through.

"Mexico has the absolute power not to let these large "Caravans" of people enter their country," Trump said "They must stop them at their Northern Border, which they can do because their border laws work, not allow them to pass through into our country, which has no effective border laws."

He later criticized what he called a wasteful procedure U.S. authorities must go through to deport those who cross the southern border, saying the law does not allow for easily removing them from the country.

"Honduras, Mexico and many other countries that the U.S. is very generous to, sends many of their people to our country through our WEAK IMMIGRATION POLICIES. Caravans are heading here. Must pass tough laws and build the WALL," Trump said.

Mexican Interior Minister Alfonso Navarrete Prida responded to Trump on Monday, saying "It is absolutely incorrect to say that Mexico is not making an effort" to control illegal migration.

He said Mexico has been following the course of the caravan, but rejected pressure from the United States.

"Of course we will act, let me be clear, in strict compliance with our migration laws, without accepting pressure from any country or anyone," he said.

Trump administration officials told reporters Monday the White House was preparing legislation aimed at helping expedite some deportations of immigrants in the country illegally.

Trump last year ended a program championed by former President Barack Obama to protect from deportation about 800,000 young people who were brought illegally into the country by their parents when they were children.

Court decisions have at least temporarily blocked the deportation of the immigrants, many of whom have only known the United States as their home, but Trump and Democratic lawmakers have failed to reached a permanent legislative fix. The recent $1.3 trillion bill that funded government agencies through the end of September made no mention of the dispute.

Maria Angelica Ramirez carries a large key reading "My Dream" during a protest outside the office of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and Congress passing a clean Dream Act.
Maria Angelica Ramirez carries a large key reading "My Dream" during a protest outside the office of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and Congress passing a clean Dream Act.

​The latest government figures, issued Monday, put the approximate number of active participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program at 693,850. More than two-thirds of them are from Mexico, with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras the other top countries of birth.

The data showed the government approved 55,125 applications for the program in the first three months of this year, most of those being renewals. Another 51,118 applications were listed as still pending.

Trump in the past has said he would show "great heart" for the young immigrants and said he would keep the program in place in exchange for full funding of a wall he wants built along the U.S.-Mexican border to thwart more illegal migrants from entering the United States.

But lately, Trump has taken a harder line against the young immigrants, often called "Dreamers" by their advocates.

"DACA is dead because the Democrats didn't care or act, and now everyone wants to get onto the DACA bandwagon" by entering the country illegally, he said. "No longer works."

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