Up to 15,000 migrants — many of them from Central America, Venezuela and Cuba — may soon join a massive caravan that set off from southern Mexico toward the US border Monday, with its members calling on President Biden to repeal the Title 42 health policy by the time they reach the frontier.
“[Biden] promised the Haitian community he will help them,” one migrant from the Caribbean nation told Fox News. “He will recall Title 42. He will help us have real asylum.”
The caravan began its journey from Tapachula, less than 10 miles from Mexico’s border with Guatemala, a departure timed to coincide with the start of the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.
Reuters, citing witnesses, reported that at least 6,000 people had set off from Tapachula. Organizer Luis Villigran told Fox News that the caravan stretched more than 32 miles and estimated that 9,500 people were taking part.
“People keep joining,” he said.
The Guardian reported last week that about 11,000 people were part of the caravan and suggested their number could swell as high as 15,000. The Mexican government has neither provided an official estimate of the caravan’s size or made any public comment about it.
Pictures show hundreds of migrants carrying backpacks, children, umbrellas, and various flags, as well as pushing strollers and wheelchairs. Some were also spotted carrying large signs and food and water.
“[We have] been waiting for two months for the visa and still nothing, so better to start walking in this march,” Ruben Medina, a Venezuelan traveling with 12 of his family members, told the Associated Press.
“They have us an appointment for August 10 in [the asylum commission], and we don’t have the money to wait. We had to walk around hiding from immigration, there were raids, because if they catch us, they will lock us up,” Joselyn Ponce of Nicaragua said.
Villagran told the AP the people traveling want to send a message that “the migrant women and children, the migrant families are not bargaining chips for ideological and political interests.”
The new caravan comes as the US has seen a massive influx in attempted border crossings in Southern California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.
In April alone, border officials reported a new high of 234,088 encounters, with just under 97,000 people summarily expelled under Title 42 and more than 110,000 released into the US.
The Biden administration attempted to rescind the health policy last month. Title 42 has been in place since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and has allowed border officials to quickly expel nearly 2 million migrants without hearing asylum claims.
Ultimately, a federal judge kept the policy in place — though some border towns have continued to see border crossing surges.
Just hours after the migrants began their trek, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced he would not be attending the summit after the US refused to invite the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
“There can’t be a Summit of the Americas if all the countries of the continent don’t participate,” López Obrador told reporters in Spanish on Monday. “That would be to continue with the old interventionist policy of lack of respect for nations and their people.”