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Migrants at US border ask Trump to have heart

Thursday, April 26, 2018

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TIJUANA, Mexico (AFP) — Olga Caballero and her four children set out from southern Mexico a month ago as part of a US-bound caravan that infuriated President Donald Trump.

Now, having reached the border with the wealthy United States on Tuesday, this Honduran woman is asking the anti-immigrant Trump to show compassion and remember that he, too, is a father.

Caballero and her children — whose ages range from two to 16 — spent the first night in Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, as part of a caravan of 120 migrants including 50 minors who arrived on two buses.

Since the so-called Viacrucis Migrante set out on March 25, or Palm Sunday, these poor and hearty Central Americans have crossed Mexico on foot, on trains and in buses.

"My biggest fear was that I would fall asleep and one of my kids would fall from the train. Everybody was crowded up against a railing, and I sat up all night watching them," said Caballero, who is 35.

The caravan is a tradition that dates back to 2010 and is designed to draw attention to the plight of destitute Central Americans crossing through Mexico to try to reach the US and the promise of a better life.

This time, it set out with 1,000 people, but they have since dispersed, with some now traveling on their own.

Irineo Mujica of the migrant rights group Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People Without Borders) that organised the procession said that some 600 of the original thousand remain grouped together. About half have begun filing papers to stay in Mexico and the other 300 plan to request asylum in the United States.

Media coverage of the US-bound caravan triggered a flurry of furious tweets from Trump, who ordered thousands of National Guard troops to the US-Mexican border and called on Mexico to stop the migrants.

He also linked the issue of migration to the signing of a revamped North American Free Trade Agreement.

Late Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security warned the migrants against trying to enter the country illegally or filing false immigration claims, saying they will be arrested if they do.

Mexico rejected pressure from Trump. It gave the migrants a one-month transit pass to decide if they want to seek refuge in Mexico, go back home or keep trudging toward the United States. Lisandro Guerrero, a Honduran traveling with his wife, decided to stay in Mexico even though he made it all the way to Tijuana on the border with the US.

He will stay in Tijuana seeking work and at some point bring over his nine children.

"If they do not want us there," he said of the United States, "why go? It is better to stay in Mexico which is welcoming us with open arms, thanks to God."

Caballero had a message for Trump: "I would like him to put his hand on his heart, and I would ask if he has ever been a father. Because only a parent knows what it means to be ready to do absolutely anything for your children."

She says she will ask the Americans for asylum because violence from street gangs in Honduras makes life impossible there. "That is why we are here. It is not that we covet another country," she said, her voice breaking with emotion.

Among this group there are only about 20 men, including the Honduran Gualdin Omar, 20, who will also ask for asylum to escape the gangs, known in Spanish as "maras."

"Because of the maras you cannot even go out on the street. No one leaves home," said this young farmer, who used to grow corn and beans.

Omar says he is sure he will achieve the American dream, and challenged Trump: "I tell Donald Trump to get ready for when we get there."

Upon their arrival at the border, the migrants were fed roast chicken, beans, rice and tortillas. Along the way, they found solidarity as people provided them with food and clothing.

"The good thing is there have been lots of good people who supported us a lot," said Honduran Reina Garcia.

Tristan Call, a member of People Without Borders who accompanied these travellers, said Mexicans responded to what he called Trump's "hatred" and bent over backwards to help the Central Americans.

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