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Migrant Caravan Prepares To Enter A Pressured Mexico

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Another caravan of migrants - this time about 2,000 - have spent the last week traveling from Honduras through Guatemala to get to the Mexican border. The migrants are fleeing poverty and violence, and many hope to eventually reach the U.S. The Trump administration has put a lot of pressure on the Mexican government to curb the flow of migrants traveling north.

James Fredrick has been reporting on the situation, and he joins us now from the Guatemala-Mexico border.

Welcome.

JAMES FREDRICK, BYLINE: Thank you.

CHANG: So what are you seeing at the border right now?

FREDRICK: Well, here's basically what happened today. The migrant caravan went to the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala, and they went and they asked the Mexican government, please, let us in. Please, let us, you know, come and march through Mexico. And the government said no.

So after that, the caravan eventually came down from that bridge and decided to walk across the river that divides these two countries. And the water level was pretty low, so it was easy for them to just walk across. But when they got across, they were met by hundreds of National Guard members who were waiting for them on the other side.

CHANG: Yeah.

FREDRICK: I was there, and this is what it sounded like.

(CROSSTALK)

FREDRICK: And so right now, what we have is a standoff at a river. There are hundreds, maybe more than a thousand migrants here on the Mexican bank of this river and a very long line of Mexican National Guard members not letting them any further.

CHANG: Now, should these migrants get let into Mexico, they're going to have to travel all the way through Mexico to get to the U.S. border. Do you get the sense that any of them wouldn't mind staying in Mexico?

FREDRICK: Yeah. It's interesting. That's one thing that seems different this time when I'm talking to migrants is there seem to be a lot more people who are more open to the idea of staying in Mexico, trying to find a place to live and work here. There still are many who say that the United States is their destination. But compared to other migrant caravans I've been with, there are a lot more people who are saying, I'll stay in Mexico. They just can't get into Mexico right now.

CHANG: And what are the Mexican authorities saying about the possibility of all these migrants staying in Mexico?

FREDRICK: The Mexican government has been very clear since news broke about this migrant caravan. They said a caravan is not going to come into the country. What they've been telling migrants is, if you come with us, you can see what options there are for you to, you know, get some kind of legal status in Mexico. But for most people, that results in deportation. The migrants here don't really trust Mexican authorities, and they don't want to go with them. So, I mean, we really are stuck at a standoff right now.

CHANG: There have been a number of caravans. I mean, I'm just curious. These waves of migrants that keep coming up north - why do they want to travel in such a large number in a caravan and not just with one or two other families at a time?

FREDRICK: It's mostly two factors. First is safety. The migrant trail is very dangerous. You know, cartels and other gangs prey on migrants on that trail. There's lots of kidnappings and robberies. And then the other thing is visibility. They really do want to be seen. They want people to know that they are fleeing poverty and violence and that the situation in the Central American countries they come from is unlivable.

CHANG: That is reporter James Fredrick on the Mexico-Guatemala border.

Thank you very much.

FREDRICK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.