The so-called "migrant caravan" snaking its way through Mexico toward the United States' southern border once swelled to nearly 10,000 members, but Mexico now says that, after offering asylum and work permits to the thousands of economic refugees from Honduras and Guatemala, only around 4,000 migrants remain.
The Washington Examiner reports that "nearly 3,000" migrants have abandoned the caravan in recent days, flouting their leaders' suggestion that they resist accepting asylum and temporary work authorization in Mexico and press forward to the U.S. border.
"Mexico's Interior and Foreign Ministries reported, as of Thursday, 2,934 people originally traveling to the U.S. have stopped and applied for asylum in Mexico," the Examiner says. "Of those, 927 have canceled their asylum claim with the Mexican government and returned to Guatemala and Honduras, where the caravans originated, according to a government news release."
Two departments of the Mexican government — the federal police and Mexico's office of migrant services — are helping to take those who decide to cancel their request home, the Examiner reports, giving free rides back to the Guatemalan border to anyone who decides to abandon the caravan and return home. The rest of the immigrants are being processed through Mexico's Department of Refugee Aid.
The 2,000 migrants claiming asylum in Mexico will be allowed to wait in-country until the Mexican government processes their claims, a wait of between 45 and 90 days. Mexico will not allow the migrants to simply run free in a catch-and-release type program, however; the 1,553 migrants awaiting an asylum hearing will remain in temporary shelters located just over Mexico's border with Guatemala.
An additional 478 migrants are being held in a United Nations-manned shelter nearby.
The "migrant caravan" demanding asylum in the United States has run into trouble in recent days. Earlier this week it was forced to stop as group leaders investigated crimes — including child abductions — being committed in the group's midst. Additionally, hot weather and lack of water and basic supplies forced some members of the caravan to seek shelter and help from Mexican authorities, even though the group's leadership turned down a formal offer of temporary asylum from the Mexican government days before, forcing the group to move on.
The group, which was once between 7,000 and 10,000 members strong, is now down to just under 4,000. At the moment, the caravan is reportedly crossing through the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, still more than a 1,000 miles from the closest official border crossing.
President Donald Trump has been using the migrant caravan as an example of the threat illegal immigration poses to the U.S.'s southern border, often forcing Democrats to take the position that the caravan's members should be allowed to cross into the United States en masse and without prior approval or investigation.
Members of the caravan sued the Trump Administration on Friday, demanding pre-approval for asylum claims before the group encounters the Customs and Border Patrol at an official U.S. border crossing — the only place where the migrants can legally make claims of asylum.