A caravan of Central American migrants was set to resume its arduous journey to the U.S. Wednesday after pausing Tuesday to mourn a fellow traveler who was killed in a road accident and to tend to various travel-related ailments many have developed.
Such caravans have been routine over the years without much attention, but U.S. President Donald Trump has used the caravan to rally his Republican base before the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
Trump tweeted Wednesday his administration "will never accept people coming into our Country illegally."
For those who want and advocate for illegal immigration, just take a good look at what has happened to Europe over the last 5 years. A total mess! They only wish they had that decision to make over again.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 24, 2018
We are a great Sovereign Nation. We have Strong Borders and will never accept people coming into our Country illegally!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 24, 2018
Trump fueled the controversy in a series of tweets Monday, saying without evidence that "criminals and unknown Middle Easterners" were among the caravan of Central American migrants bound for the U.S.
Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway defended those statements Wednesday, telling reporters outside the White House they don't know "what information he has," without offering proof of the accuracy of the remarks.
"I can promise you he knows more than you do and than I do on any given day about this information," Conway said.
Trump has blasted Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala for not stopping their citizens from departing for the U.S. He said Monday he would begin cutting off or reducing foreign aid to those countries and threatened last week to use military troops to close the U.S. southern border.
The caravan of more than 7,000 of mostly Hondurans who are fleeing violence and poverty in their home country, was in the southern Mexican town of Huixtla, about 50 kilometers north of the Guatemalan border and more than 1,000 miles from the closest U.S. border.
Many in the caravan may not qualify for asylum even if they reach the border.
The U.S. does not consider escapes from poverty and violence as qualifying factors.
International law requires that individuals fleeing violence and persecution must be allowed access to the country where they are seeking asylum and the right to apply for it.
Staff from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees arrived earlier this week in the Mexican town of Tapachulas, which is near the Guatemalan border, to help stabilize the migrant caravan's chaotic situation and to register asylum seekers.
UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told VOA staffers are also safeguarding migrants' rights.
"All countries have a right to be able to manage their own immigration and manage their own borders," Edwards said. "What is important for us is that those borders are managed in an asylum-sensitive way, which means giving people access, assessing their claims and then dealing with them accordingly in line with international law."
Trump has vowed to prevent the caravan of migrants from entering the U.S., but beyond threats to cut or reduce foreign aid, administration officials have not indicated how the U.S. will respond to what he has called a "national emergency."
Faces in the Crowd: The Honduran Caravan photo galleryView full gallery