Tapachula, Mexico – The church bells were chiming at 3pm, but Juan Alberto Orellana was already awake. He and other Central American immigrants and refugees prepare to head north on Sunday from Tapachula in southern Mexico.
The central plaza was afraid of activity as people got up from their pieces of cardboard, blankets and stains of dirt and concrete. For the hundreds of people sleeping in the square and others coming from other neighborhoods, it didn't take long to get through.
Like everyone else, all Orellana took with him from Honduras into a small backpack. He left home on January 1
"People can't live in Honduras," Orellana Al Jazeera told the site on Sunday as he waited to start the collective trek north.
"The cost of living is really high," he said, adding that the high rate of violent crime was also a factor in his decision to leave Honduras.
Orellana joined the approx. 2,000 immigrants and refugees who left Tapachula on foot. Many hoped to make it to the United States while others planned to stay in Mexico, but Sunday's destination was Huixtla, a city 41 km up the highway in the state of Chiapas.
Thousands of Central Americans have fled over the last four months in a number of highly visible large groups called caravans. The overwhelming majority is from Honduras, followed by El Salvador and Guatemala.
The group that broadcast Sunday from Tapachula was part of the latest wave of ongoing exodus. A caravan left Honduras on January 15, and since then, other groups, families and individuals have since floated to the border crossing between Tanzania and Mexico between Guatemala and Mexico.
In the second half of January, immigrants and refugees benefited from a temporary special policy created by the Mexican Government during a new administration that took power on 1 December. The government has issued renewable one-year humanitarian visas that allow people to live, work, and travel through Mexico.
Between January 15 and 29, Mexican officials treated 15,552 humanitarian visa requests at the border. The National Immigration Institute announced on Sunday that it had issued 11,225 visas, having fully processed 72 percent of the applications.
Most of the 2,000 Central Americans departing from Tapachula on Sunday had received humanitarian visas. For many of them it was not a choice to travel with a caravan. they could not afford transportation.
Immigrants and refugees spread for miles on the highway for a few hours into the trip and took breaks in the shade of the mango trees. In the end, Kenya took Marisol Alvarado and many other rides to Huixtla from passing trucks.
Alvarado went home in a remote rural area of Santa Barbara department Honduras more than two weeks ago with her husband and their eight-year-old son. She and her husband both worked as agricultural day workers when they could, but the work was sporadic and paid only six dollars a day.
|Kenya Marisol Alvarado, her husband and son, and another family entering the Huixtla after a truck driver dropped them off at the motorway exit [Sandra Cuffe/Al Jazeera]|
Like many Central Americans who have been issued humanitarian visas, Alvarado and her family are planning to live in Mexico. But they have no savings and have never left Honduras before, so they travel to Mexico with the caravan until they can get their rents and find out the best place to look for work to support themselves and the other two children aged three and six, they left their family in Honduras.
"We came to work and also to pay school fees to our children. The situation [in Honduras] is extreme. There is no work," Alvarado told Al Jazeera.
Alvarado's family and another family with toddlers were knocked off at the motorway exit to Huixtla by a passing truck driver. Alvarado's son was in good spirit. "It's an A!" exclaimed excitedly and pointed to the last letter in the city name, spelled out in large rainbow letters on the street side into the city.
The family does not have to worry about immigration managers because they have humanitarian visas. But not everyone in the caravan has them. The Mexican government closed its temporary special policy without notice after two weeks and suddenly announced on January 29 that it would not accept new applicants.
We came to work and also to pay school fees to our children. The situation [in Honduras] is extreme. There is no work.
Kenya Marisol Alvarado, Central American Caravan participates
Central Americans continued to the Tecun Uman border crossing, and many are still stuck in limbo while others have crossed into Mexico without processing. Further north, another caravan travels through Mexico without humanitarian visas.
When waves of Honduras and Salvadorans began arriving at the border between Guatemala and Mexico in mid-January, there was initially tremendous mistrust of the Mexican government's promises of visa.
For years, Mexico has shown more Central Americans than the United States. Past experiences and policies led many Central Americans to believe in the visa maturation process was a ruse to expel them, and hundreds of people avoided the process and crossed into Mexico. When the group arrived in Mexico City last week, they numbered more than 2,500.
Mexican immigration officials set up in the metropolitan stadium serving as migrant and refugee homes and again offered humanitarian visas to only that part of the group. From Sunday, 661 people had picked them up on the offer and 590 were already issued visas at the stadium, according to the National Immigration Institute.
& # 39; Stay in Mexico & # 39; policy
Some 1,400 people from the pre-car had already arrived Sunday in El Saltillo, Coahuila, in northern Mexico. Instead of following each footsteps of each camping water last year and going to Tijuana, they will go to a Mexican city bordering Texas, either by Eagle Pass or Laredo, according to Agencia Reforma, a Mexican newswire.
The immigrant and refugee wagon departing Sunday from Tapachula has preliminary plans to go to Tijuana, but news of violence, aggravated rental conditions, lack of employment opportunities and long waiting lists to seek asylum in Tijuana have traveled south. Several people traveling with the group, as well as others who leave independently, told Al Jazeera that they would head to other border areas instead.
Tijuana is now the site of the controversial Remain in Mexico policy in which the United States returns asylum seekers to Mexico to await legal dates and the outcome of their cases. The implementation of the policy, now called migration protection protocols, began last week and is currently only applicable in the San Yidro Gate between Tijuana and San Diego.
The policy has been hit by immigrant rights and support groups. Homicides in Tijuana murder rate hit full-time last month, and the rules could also push immigrants and refugees to travel to other border regions along routes controlled by criminal and paramilitary groups.
On Friday, Mexico and deported Nora Phillips, the legal director of Al Otro Lado, an immigrant rights group working closely with and speaking on behalf of Central American immigrants and refugees in Tijuana. Her passport was marked for unconfirmed reasons, as it was for the group's policy director Erika Pinheiro, who was denied access to Mexico last month.
ALERT !! Our legal director and trial director have been removed from Mexico. Apparently, the US government issued security notices on our passports to prevent us from traveling. Our legal director is returned on a flight landing at LAX terminal 2 at 12:10. Please DISCOVER
– Al Otro Lado (@AlOtroLado_Org) February 1, 2019
US President Donald Trump continues to focus on the border. Claiming the advancing caravans poses a threat to security, he continues in his demand for border financing. If he did not meet, he could again close the federal government this month. He also threatened to declare a national emergency to build the wall – a move that is likely to be met by legal challenges.
"With caravans marching through Mexico and towards our country, the Republicans must be ready to do everything necessary for STRONG Border Security. Dems do nothing. If there is no wall, there is no security, "Trump tweeted on Sunday.
& # 39; To avoid gangs you had to leave & # 39;
Danilo Rivera will make it to the border, but he has no plans to cross into the United States. More than anything, he just wants to see his children again.
Rivera first left San Pedro Sula, Honduras in 2001, when he was 21 years old. Flying street bands established themselves in the country, he put it in Los Angeles, where he lived for 15 years.
"The only way to stay out [of the gangs] was to leave my country," said Rivera to Al Jazeera in Huixtla town plaza, where other immigrants and refugees arrived and sought shady areas for rest.
In 2016, Rivera's wife expected their second child. Rivera returned to Honduras to apply to the US Embassy for a spouse's spouse of a US citizen. But he had not been able to cover the long and expensive process of requesting forgiveness for possession of the drug years earlier and his application was rejected.
Rivera has been trying to make it back to his children ever since. He traveled through Mexico three times over the past three years, successfully evading Mexican immigration officials. But he was arrested in the United States and deported every time.
The only way to stay out [of the gangs] was to leave my country.
Danilo Rivera, Central American Caravan participates
Rivera left San Pedro Sula for the fourth time in recent years on January 17 at the heel of the caravan, which went two days earlier. He expected to run again on the dangerous La Bestia train and hopes to make it to the United States without the discovery of Mexican immigration officials.
The humanitarian visa policy came as a surprise. Rivera's plan is now to settle in Mexicali and find work. He will remain separated at the border of his family, but he is hoping that his now ex-wife will bring their two children aged three and ten to visit.
"I would like to thank Mexico for this opportunity," said Rivera. "It's a dream I didn't expect."