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Migrant Caravan Stuck At Guatemala-Mexico Border


Thousands of Central Americans, mostly from Honduras, are stuck on Guatemala's border with Mexico. They are part of a so-called caravan of folks who hoped to get to the U.S. border and eventually into the U.S. Reporter Emily Green has been traveling with them, and she's now on the bridge that separates Guatemala from Mexico. And she's with us now. Emily, thanks so much for talking to us.

EMILY GREEN: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Tell us a little bit more about where you are and what's happening right now.

GREEN: So I'm on this bridge, as you said, that separates Guatemala and Mexico. And what I'm seeing right now are babies just in their diapers, kids without shoes on, tons of men and moms. It feels like I'm in the midst of a humanitarian crisis.

MARTIN: Can you just tell us a bit more about what people are telling you, who they are and why they've been willing to go through all this?

GREEN: So most of them came from Honduras. And there are some folks from El Salvador and some from Guatemala, but the vast majority are from Honduras. What they told me largely is that this wasn't planned. They read or heard about the caravan. And conditions in Honduras are unfathomably bad, that they can't get gas, that there's no food, that they're essentially starving, and that they had to take a chance. They also felt much safer in numbers to travel to Mexico as part of a big group of people instead of just alone or paying a smuggler, or coyote, to take them.

MARTIN: Now, I understand that a number of people are actually turning back now.

GREEN: That's right. So Guatemala has sent buses to take those migrants who want to return to Honduras - to take them back voluntarily. And so I talked to a woman by the name of Rosalina Lopez Esquine. She's 26 years old. She said, like many of the other migrants, that she started to join the caravan as an impromptu decision, but she regretted the decision along the way. She has four children back in Honduras. And she says she knew the trip would be hard, but it's even worse than she imagined.


GREEN: So she says to me, she'll suffer back in Honduras, but at least she'll keep her life. And she refers to the fact that yesterday, the Mexican police deployed tear gas against the migrants trying to enter Mexico and that people got hurt. And so she says, given these conditions, it's better that she returned to Honduras.

MARTIN: But you said that there are still several thousand people there, so that suggests that most of the people are going to try to stay and move on, keep moving with the caravan.

GREEN: That's right. Up until this point, I mean, I'd say there's maybe 2,000 to 3,000 people on this bridge. Most of them are moving forward. I talked to 24-year-old Kevin Garmendia. He's traveling with his younger sister and a friend. They've been traveling for three days. They camped out on the bridge last night with thousands of the other migrants. And they want to reach Florida, where they have friends. Here's what he had to tell me.

KEVIN GARMENDIA: (Speaking Spanish).

GREEN: He says, "fear becomes your friend, so if you become scared, you use that fear to your favor, and it pushes you forward." And he says they're going to try and get across to Mexico any way they can, and that includes by boat or trying to cross this bridge that I'm on right now.

MARTIN: You know, President Trump has reacted furiously to this. He's been speaking about it at campaign rallies, demanding that Mexican. that Mexico close the border by any means necessary. He claims he'll send U.S. troops to the Southern border. I was wondering if that message is getting through to the people that you've been talking to. And what sense do you have from all the - both the migrants and the authorities there?

GREEN: I would say that virtually none of the migrants on this bridge really know what Trump is saying. They don't have cellphone service. Or they don't have money to charge their cellphones. So it's basically word of mouth. They know Trump doesn't want them. They absolutely know that. But that's almost meaningless to them. What they want to do is leave their lives, their very poor, their very violent lives behind in Honduras. And so they're going to push forward.

But I have this sense today on the bridge that this is not going to end well. I don't have the sense that, all of a sudden, Mexico is going to let these 3,000 people in. And so it makes you wonder, what's going to happen to them? Is this just going to turn further into a humanitarian crisis? Where are these people going to go? I don't think it's going to end well.

MARTIN: Emily Green is a reporter based in Mexico, and she's with us now from the bridge that separates Mexico from Guatemala, where thousands of would-be migrants are gathered, hoping to cross. Emily Green, thank you so much for talking to us.

GREEN: Thanks for having me on the show. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.