MEXICO CITY -- Central American migrants in a caravan that has stopped in Mexico City demanded buses Thursday to take them to the U.S. border, saying it is too cold and dangerous to continue walking and hitchhiking.
About 200 migrants, representing the roughly 5,000 staying in a stadium in the south of Mexico's capital, marched to the United Nations office in Mexico City to make the demand for transportation.
The office was closed when the migrants arrived, but a dozen were received by U.N. representatives at a nearby location, said Ilberto Sosa Montes, a 45-year-old Honduran who is one of caravan's coordinators.
"We need buses to continue traveling," said Milton Benitez, a caravan coordinator. Benitez noted that it would be colder in northern Mexico and it wasn't safe for the migrants to continue along highways, where drug cartels frequently operate.
"This is a humanitarian crisis and they are ignoring it," Benitez said as the group arrived at the U.N. office.
The plan was that when the migrant delegation returned to the stadium, roughly a three-hour walk from the U.N. office, the migrants would gather in an assembly to decide when they would leave Mexico City and what route they would take to the U.S. border. But the meeting with U.N. officials continued into the evening Thursday, representatives of the U.N. and the caravan confirmed.
Mexico City authorities say that of the 4,841 registered migrants receiving shelter in a sports complex, 1,726 are under the age of 18, including 310 children under five.
The Mexican government has said most of the migrants have refused offers to stay in Mexico, and only a small number have agreed to return to their home countries.
There have already been reports of migrants on the caravan disappearing, though that is often because they hitch rides on trucks that turn off on different routes, leaving them lost.
Mexico City is more than 600 miles from the nearest U.S. border crossing at McAllen, Texas, and a previous caravan in the spring opted for a much longer route to Tijuana in the far northwest, across from San Diego. That caravan steadily dwindled to only about 200 people by the time it reached the border.
Other activists and officials explained the options available to migrants in Mexico, which has offered them refuge, asylum or work visas. The government said 2,697 temporary visas had been issued to individuals and families to cover them while they wait through the 45-day application process for a more permanent status.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump's administration on Thursday announced new measures to deny the ability of migrants to seek asylum in the United States if they enter illegally.
The restrictions will rely on emergency powers invoked by the president to implement his "travel ban" in early 2017, according to U.S. officials with knowledge of the plans. Legal challenges seeking to delay or block the asylum restrictions are expected to follow.
Privately, Homeland Security officials acknowledge that the new restrictions, at least on their own, are unlikely to achieve the kind of immediate deterrent effect the White House desires.
Detention capacity at U.S. immigration jails are already nearly maxed out, and court-imposed limits on the government's ability to hold children in immigration jails for longer than 20 days mean most migrant families who arrive seeking protection are still likely to be released pending a hearing.
Under U.S. immigration laws, foreigners who arrive on American soil stating a fear of return to their home countries can request asylum as a shield against deportation. A U.S. asylum officer then conducts an interview to determine if the person has a "credible fear" of persecution, in which case the applicant is typically assigned a court date and released from custody.
Soaring numbers of migrants have entered the United States taking this administrative path in recent years, often crossing illegally to surrender to U.S. border agents. Since 2014, asylum claims at the border have increased fourfold, adding to a backlog of more than 750,000 pending cases in U.S. immigration courts.
The new measures will continue to allow foreigners to request asylum if they enter the country legally at U.S. ports of entry, but not those who cross without authorization, according to officials familiar with the plans.
Information for this article was contributed by Maria Verza and Christopher Sherman of The Associated Press; and by Nick Miroff and Maria Sacchetti of The Washington Post.
A Section on 11/09/2018
Print Headline: Migrants request buses to U.S. border