A group of migrants traveling from Central America say they’ll continue towards the US border after turning down Mexico’s offer of refuge. Washington has reportedly authorized the deployment of troops to the border.
Several thousand migrants — traveling in a large group from Central American countries to the United States — have turned down an offer by Mexico to help them find shelter and work in the country, The Associated Press (AP) reported on Saturday.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto announced that his government would offer support to those people from the so-called migrant caravan who agree to apply for asylum in Mexico.
Pena Nieto spoke directly to migrants in a video address about the plan. “We know very well that what you’re seeking is an opportunity, you want to build a new home and a better future for your family and loved ones. Today, Mexico lends you a hand,” he said.
The plan dubbed “You are at home,” would grant migrants a temporary residence permit while their asylum applications are processed. They would also be eligible to receive medical care, obtain a temporary job permit and enroll their children in school.
Hoy lanzamos el plan #EstásEnTuCasa para los migrantes centroamericanos que ya se encuentran en México. El plan da acceso a programas de empleo temporal, además de atención médica y escuelas para los menores de edad. pic.twitter.com/9GHq3GNNxb
— Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN) October 26, 2018
The AP reported that the migrants held a vote on the offer near the southern Mexican town of Arriaga, but decided to proceed with their journey to the US border.
“Thank you!” they yelled as they rejected the offer in a show of hands, before adding: “No, we’re heading north!”
The migrants are still 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from the nearest U.S. border crossing at McAllen, Texas.
US authorizes military
US President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has warned that the migrants pose a threat to the US, saying that “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners” were “mixed in” with the crowd. Trump has railed against Central American governments for not doing enough to stop the caravan and cited the incident as a reason for tightening immigration laws in the US.
On Friday, US officials told the Reuters news agency that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had authorized the use of troops and other military resources at the US-Mexico border. While the Pentagon did not comment on the matter, officials told Reuters that some 800 troops could be deployed as early as Tuesday.
Mattis is said to have authorized the army to provide “mission-enhancing capabilities” to US Customs and Border Protection, including engineering support to help build temporary barriers and housing.
‘Everything is on the table’
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said on Friday that “everything is on the table” to deal with the problem of illegal immigration.
“We are looking at every possible way within the legal construct that we have to make sure that those who don’t have the legal right to come to this country do not come in,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen’s made the remarks during a visit to the first completed section of President Donald Trump’s 30-foot border wall in the El Centro Sector, California.
Read more: Hondurans fleeing poverty, violence: ‘There is no other option’
Fleeing violence and poverty
According to organizers, some 5,500 men, women and children are taking part in the migrant caravan, while authorities put the number at 3,630.
The caravan began in Honduras nearly two weeks ago and other Central Americans have joined it along the way. The caravan is comprised mostly of Hondurans, but Guatemalans and El Salvadorians are said to be taking part.
Both Honduras and El Salvador have been plagued by rampant violence, while a lack of jobs has driven many Guatemalans to flee their country. Though Guatemala is Central America’s largest economy, some 60 percent of Guatemalans live in poverty.