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Hundreds Of Central Americans Mass At Guatemala-Mexico Border


This morning, hundreds of Central Americans gathered on the Guatemala-Mexico border. This caravan of migrants was planning to make its way towards Mexico. Many of the migrants are hoping to eventually reach the United States. But the Mexican government is under pressure from the Trump administration to curb the flow of migrants travelling north, so there were a lot of questions about whether this group would actually make the crossing and succeed. Reporter James Fredrick has been monitoring all of this on the border, and he joins us. James, good morning.

JAMES FREDRICK: Good morning.

GREENE: So you're right on the border. Explain exactly what you're seeing and where you are.

FREDRICK: So I'm right here on this river that divides Mexico and Guatemala. I'm looking at the bridge right now. Mexican authorities have completely closed off the bridge right now. There are a few dozen National Guard members there. They're in riot gear. And they are preparing to keep this bridge closed. On the other side, probably 500 yards away, the caravan is grouping up together. And they plan on crossing this bridge and asking the Mexican government to let them through.

GREENE: And so what is the Mexican government exactly saying at this point about what they'll do and whether they might let them through or not?

FREDRICK: Well, so if you remember this caravan back in 2018, it was able to come into Mexico and march through Mexico towards the United States. The Mexican government's stance has changed substantially since then, particularly under pressure from the Trump administration. If you'll remember, Trump threatened to put tariffs on Mexico if they didn't stop migrants coming to the United States. And so Mexico has said clearly, a migrant caravan will not enter the country and will not be able to march through. So they have been pretty clear on that point.

GREENE: And you've reported on this for a while. You reported on that caravan in 2018. Is this similar? How's it compare?

FREDRICK: It looks different in quite a few ways. I mean, first of all, Guatemalan authorities have counted about 4,000 migrants entering the country in the last few days, so that's smaller. The caravan in 2018 was as many as 8,000 people at one time.

Also, from what I can tell, this caravan is much less organized. And people have been traveling in several smaller groups of a few hundred, not one big group of thousands. You know, one thing that feels the same is what migrants are telling me about their reasons for leaving. I met Jessica Corrales Torres (ph), a 40-year-old mother of four from Honduras, and she told me this.

JESSICA CORRALES TORRES: (Non-English language spoken).

FREDRICK: So she says it's hard. It's really hard. There are no jobs in Honduras, lots of crime and that the violence, more than anything, is what's horrible. So these Central American countries and, you know, particularly Honduras, where most of these people are coming from, things feel as bad as ever. And the last thing I'll add is that it feels different this time is that a lot of people I talked to are willing to stay in Mexico. Right now, it's just not clear how they'll actually be able to get into Mexico.

GREENE: Yeah. I mean, that's the big question, whether they'll be allowed to come in. It sounds like the Mexican government is saying no. So what happens next?

FREDRICK: It's very unclear. I mean, we're hoping there's no, you know, violent clashes. In 2018, there was tear gas shot by the Mexican government at the caravan when it tried to enter. So we hope there's no violence today. But we do know that the caravan is going to try it again. They're coming to the bridge now. And they will try to cross into Mexico. Mexico says no. So we're really at a standoff here.

GREENE: Reporter James Fredrick, thanks so much.

FREDRICK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.