U.S. President Donald Trump's suspension of asylum rights for immigrants illegally trying to enter the U.S. took effect Saturday, but some 4,000 Central American migrants remain undeterred as they continue their trek toward the U.S.
Trump signed a proclamation Friday tightening the U.S.-Mexico border, maintaining the illegal entry of immigrants across the southern border is harmful to the national interests of the U.S.
Still, a caravan of nearly 4,000 Central American migrants left a stadium in southern Mexico City early Saturday to embark on the most dangerous and longest leg of its journey. The caravan followed about 900 migrants who left Mexico City on Friday.
The migrants planned to head toward the northwest, passing through the Mexican cities of Queretaro, Guadalajara, Culiacan and Hermosillo, until they arrive in Tijuana just south of the U.S. California border, Mexico's Human Rights Commission said.
Mexico City is about 965 kilometers from the closest U.S. border crossing at McAllen, Texas, but the most direct route to McAllen is teeming with drug gang activity. While the route to California is more circuitous and still dangerous, the migrants consider it safer.
Three civil rights groups immediately challenged Trump's plan to limit asylum requests in court. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed lawsuits Friday in San Francisco federal court seeking an injunction against the order.
"President Trump's new asylum ban is illegal," said the ACLU's Omar Jadwat. "Neither the president nor his cabinet secretaries can override their clear commands of U.S. law, but that's exactly what they're trying to do."
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees criticized the Trump administration for not fulfilling obligations to help refugees.
"UNHCR expects all countries, including the United States, to make sure any person in need of refugee protection and humanitarian assistance is able to receive both promptly and without obstruction," it said in a statement.
The Geneva-based agency said that the U.S. was forcing migrants to seek help from human smugglers to cross borders illegally.
Although migrant caravans from Central America are fairly routine, Trump made this caravan a campaign issue in the midterm elections in an attempt to energize his supporters. Trump ordered the deployment of more than 5,000 troops to the border to prevent the migrants from entering the U.S. In addition to making asylum more difficult to obtain, Trump has threatened to detain applicants in tent cities.
Most of the migrants are from Honduras, while others are from Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. They say violence and poverty forced them to leave their home countries and seek refuge in the U.S.