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Migrant caravan in Mexico marks Christmas Day by trudging onward

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Thousands of migrants traversing southern Mexico spent Christmas Day much like any other, enduring the relentless sun as they pressed forward in their journey. In the town of Álvaro Obregón, in the state of Chiapas, Christmas Eve offered meager sustenance with a sandwich, water, and a banana provided by a local church.

Lacking festive celebrations, Christmas night saw migrants bedding down on scraps of cardboard or plastic, seeking refuge under makeshift awnings or tents. The following morning brought an early wake-up at 4 a.m. as they resumed their march to the next destination, Huixtla, covering 20 miles.

Karla Ramírez, a migrant from Honduras, expressed the hardship of their situation, recounting a Christmas dinner of mortadella, butter, tomato, and a tortilla, purchased due to arriving too late for the church’s provisions. Other families faced similar challenges, with one mother, Mariela Amaya, highlighting the confusion and frustration her seven-year-old son felt about spending Christmas in such circumstances.

While local families offered some assistance, distributing tamales and water, migrants voiced their plea for more substantial support from the governments of Mexico and the United States. Expressing their frustration, Jessica García from Venezuela called for empathy, requesting a safe conduct pass from the Mexican immigration office.

The caravan, comprising both single adults and families, seeks to reach the U.S. border, fueled by anger and impatience after waiting weeks or months in Tapachula for essential documents. Mexico, claiming not to issue transit visas, leaves migrants hoping for some form of documentation allowing them to use buses towards the border.

In a concerning trend, Mexico reported 680,000 migrants moving through the country in the first 11 months of 2023. The Christmas caravan, consisting of around 6,000 people, marks the largest since June 2022.

Coincidentally, the timing aligns with a meeting between U.S. and Mexican officials in Mexico City to address the growing challenge of migrants arriving at the U.S. southwest border. The Mexican government, responding to U.S. concerns, is exploring ways to impede the flow of migrants, particularly after brief closures of crucial Texas railway border crossings due to overwhelmed processing capacities.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, along with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and White House homeland security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall, are expected to negotiate new agreements to manage the surge in migrants seeking entry into the United States. With daily arrests at the U.S. southwest border reaching as high as 10,000 this month, the situation underscores the urgency of collaborative solutions between the two nations.

While a previous agreement aimed at redirecting migrants from countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba showed initial promise, the rising numbers of migrants pose challenges to both nations, affecting bilateral trade and sparking anti-migrant sentiments among conservative U.S. voters. Illegal crossings have exceeded 2 million in each of the last two fiscal years, signaling a complex issue driven by various factors such as poverty, natural disasters, political repression, and organized crime.

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