A migrant caravan currently snaking its way from Honduras to the United States's southern border was intercepted by Mexican government officials on Saturday, who offered the migrants the opportunity to stay in Mexico on work permits — an offer the migrant caravan has reportedly declined.
The Arizona Central reports that the caravan, which now numbers between five and seven thousand people, ran into a Mexican police blockade Saturday, temporarily halting progress on a bridge just outside the Mexican state of Oaxaca.
"Rows of police impeded the migrants’ path, prompting several hours of negotiations between police commanders, immigration officials and caravan representatives," the AZ Central said. Mexican officials reportedly offered the migrants "shelter, medical attention, schooling and jobs" if the migrants agreed to remain "in the southern Mexico states of Chiapas or Oaxaca," according to TIME Magazine.
"This plan does not truly respond to the causes of the Central American exodus, and therefore does not solve their needs from a perspective that respects human rights in a holistic way," a spokesperson for the caravan told AZ Central. “We don’t want any more prison cities where migrant people are confined without freedom of movement."
The migrants refused the Mexican government's offer, but say they may reconsider the deal once they reach Mexico City — a destination still at least several days away.
The caravan has been winding its way through southern Mexico after crossing over the border from Guatemala. The group is now around 190 miles north of the Guatemalan border, but is still thousands of miles from the U.S. border and progress has slowed in recent days, in part because of scorching daytime temperatures that cause disease and injury, but also in part because of incidents happening within the migrant caravan itself.
On Sunday, migrant caravan leaders announced they would "rest" for at least one day on reports of a missing child, whom some caravan members believe has been abducted, NBC News reports. Members of the caravan ran through a village late Saturday night looking for the child.
A similar incident is said to have occurred in a different city a few days ago.
There are also concerns of safety and "chivalry." "Many of the migrants have depended on hitchhiking to move between towns rather than walking the entire way. When trucks stop, it's usually young men who sprint to reach them first. Women carrying children or pushing strollers are at a disadvantage," according to NBC News.
The migrant caravan says it's determined to reach the U.S. border, where they hope President Trump will have a "change of heart" and allow its several thousand members to seek refuge and asylum in the United States. The United States Customs and Border Patrol says it will consider asylum claims if they are made at legitimate, legal border crossings, but that it will take some time to process and consider each individual claim.
President Trump, however, has taken a harder line, imploring the Mexican government to stop the migrant caravan somewhere within the country and turn it back. Trump has also threatened Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras — the countries where most of the migrants originate — with a loss of American aid if they do not help stop the migrant caravan and improve conditions within their own countries.