New group of migrants heads for US after leaving El Salvador

A new group of migrants bound for the US has set off from El Salvador, following thousands of other Central Americans fleeing poverty and violence who have taken similar journeys in recent weeks.

The group of more than 300 Salvadorans left the capital San Salvador on Sunday. A larger group of mostly Hondurans, estimated to number at least 3,500, left that country in mid-October and is now in southern Mexico. That group has become a key issue in US midterm elections.

A third group has been moving through Guatemala, at one point numbering more than 1,000 before beginning to fragment. Hundreds broke through a Guatemala border gate in Tecun Umanand on Sunday afternoon were on the bridge into Mexico.

Migrants say joining a large group offers a measure of protection against police officers and bandits.

Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans have sought to make immigration a major issue ahead of the 6 November elections, in which the party is battling to keep control of Congress.

Homeland security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said on Fox News Sunday Trump was determined to use every authority he had to stop immigrants crossing the border illegally.

“We have a crisis at the border right now,” she said. “This caravan is one iteration of that but frankly we essentially see caravans every day with these numbers.

“I think what the president is making clear is every possible action, authority, executive program is on the table to consider, to ensure that it is clear that there is a right and legal way to come to this country and no other ways will be tolerated.”

Statistics from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show that illegal border crossings have declined significantly from record highs in the early years of the century.

Last year, 396,579 undocumented people were apprehended after entering the US illegally. In 2000, more than 1.6 million illegal border crossers were apprehended.

Trump has threatened to shut down the border with Mexico and last week said he would send troops. On Friday, defense secretary Jim Mattis authorized the use of troops and other military resources at the US-Mexico border.

Many migrants currently in southern Mexico have said they intend to apply for asylum. US authorities are obliged by both international and domestic laws to consider all such applications.

By Sunday afternoon, dozens of Salvadorans had arrived at the border with Guatemala and were having their documents checked, having walked and hitched rides in pickups and on buses from the capital.

They organized using social networks like Facebook and WhatsApp over the last couple of weeks, inspired by the larger group in Mexico.

Salvadoran police traveled with the group, who carried backpacks and water bottles and protected themselves from the hot sun with hats.

El Salvador’s leftwing government said it had solidarity with the migrants and respected their right to mobilize, but urged them not to risk their lives.

In Mexico, the original group of Hondurans, exhausted by constant travel in blistering heat, spent Sunday resting in the town of Tapanatepec, Oaxaca. They planned to head north at 3am on Monday.

“It’s far ... the farthest yet,” said Honduran Bayron Baca, 26, pulling open a map that Red Cross volunteers had given him.

Dozens took dips in a nearby river to refresh from the trek, which has covered an average 30 miles a day.

Staff and agencies in Sonsonate, El Salvador

The GuardianTramp

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