A new migrant caravan began snaking its way towards the US on Wednesday after 150 Salvadorians hit the road in search of a better life abroad.
The group was pictured walking along a highway in El Salvador’s capital of San Salvador as it makes its way towards a much larger caravan of at least 1,700 Hondurans, which has already crossed into Guatemala.
The Hondurans made the crossing at the Agua Caliente border point on Wednesday, around 80 miles ahead of the Salvadorian caravan, after many of them were granted 90-day visas by the Guatemalan government.
Donald Trump has previously threatened to cut aid to Guatemala – which received $257million in 2017 – if it does not do more to stop the migrant caravans.
At least 150 Salvadoran migrants departed in a group for the United States on Wednesday, and were pictured walking along a highway in San Salvador on Wednesday morning
The migrants organized themselves using social media and were hoping to link up with a much larger group of Hondurans who are around 80 miles ahead of them, having crossed in Guatemala
Those travelling in the new caravan said they were fleeing gang violence and hoping to find more work further north
Liduvina Margarin, vice minister for Salvadorans abroad, addressed the group before they left and warned them that the road would be dangerous, and many who left in previous caravans had already returned
The caravan makes its way along the highway in San Salvador, hoping to reach the Agua Caliente border crossing between Honduras and Guatemala, where the first caravan is located
Donald Trump has said the US will refuse to let in anyone who arrives at the southern border illegally, but those walking in the caravan said they had to try, because there was no life for them back home
The caravan departs San Salvador, the first stage in a more-than 1,000 mile journey north across Guatemala and Mexico
Speaking about their reasons for leaving, those in the El Salvador caravan cited violence and a lack of work as their main reasons for going.
‘I can’t stay. I’m leaving because the gangs have threatened me – either I join them, or they’ll kill me,’ said Adonay Hernandez, 22, who was carrying just $20 in his pocket but was confident he will make it to relatives in North Carolina. ‘God is my shield,’ he said.
Others hoped to find a better life in Mexico, where they have options for applying for refuge and work permits.
‘I know that in Mexico they are helping us,’ said Franklin Martinez, a 34-year-old traveling with his partner and their 2½-year-old daughter.
‘We are going to ask for refuge and we are going to stay and work. After we have saved enough, perhaps we will go to the United States, but our goal is to make it to Mexico.’
Liduvina Margarin, vice minister for Salvadorans abroad, met with the migrants before they left a downtown plaza to warn them about the dangers of the northward route. She told them that more than half the Salvadorans who left in caravans have returned to the country.
On Wednesday morning, between 900 and 1,000 Hondurans gathered at the country’s border with Guatemala
Several hundred Honduran migrants already entered Guatemala on Tuesday
Honduran migrants, who are part of a new ‘migrant caravan’, wait in the grass
Honduran migrants wait in Agua Caliente
‘Our duty is to say to you that you are never going to be better off than in your homeland, in your communities of origin,’ Margarin said.
Ahead of them, the Honduran group were said to be travelling with 325 children or youths under 18 in the caravan. Around 100 people from El Salvador had already joined them.
Miria Zelaya, who left the Honduran city of Colon and was traveling with 12 relatives, said she did not know what sort of work she hopes to find in the United States but was not dismayed by tougher immigration policies under President Donald Trump.
‘That does not discourage me,’ Zelaya said. ‘The need is greater.’
Migrants leaving Central America’s Northern Triangle nations of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala routinely cite widespread poverty, lack of opportunity and rampant gang violence as their motivation.
Hector Alvarado, a 25-year-old announcer, said he had been shut out of job opportunities for belonging to the political opposition and felt forced to leave to find work.
He learned about the caravan on Facebook, said goodbye to relatives and hit the road. ‘My loved ones have already cried over of my leaving,’ Alvarado said. ‘Now I have to press on.’
The latest trek north comes as U.S. President Donald Trump has been working to convince the American public that there is a crisis at the southern border to justify construction of his long-promised border wall.
El Salvador is grappling with a wave of crime and violence
In 2018, the country’s murder rate stood at 50.3 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the highest levels in the world, according to the United Nations
Trump’s demand for billions of dollars to that end has resulted in a standoff with Congress that has forced a partial government shutdown.
The fate that awaits the migrants at the Mexico-U.S. border is uncertain. Previous caravans that were seized upon last year by Trump in the run-up to the 2018 midterm election have quietly dwindled, with many having gone home to Central America or put down roots in Mexico.
Many others – nearly half, according to U.S. Border Patrol arrest records – have sought to enter the U.S. illegally.
About 6,000 Central Americans reached Tijuana in November amid conflict on both sides of the border over their presence in the Mexican city across from San Diego.
As of earlier this week, fewer than 700 remained at a former outdoor concert venue in Tijuana that the Mexican government set up as a shelter to house them.
Mexico has issued humanitarian visas to about 2,900 migrants from last fall’s caravan, many of whom are now working legally there with visas.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Wednesday that Mexico has been monitoring the latest caravan closely.
He said the best option is for Central American governments to persuade their citizens to stay. Those who don’t will be allowed to enter Mexico in an orderly fashion and presented with options, and their human rights will be respected, Lopez Obrador added.