(TheRedWire.com) – On Monday, a large migrant caravan, reportedly comprising around 6,000 individuals, embarked from Tapachula, a city in southern Mexico. This development comes as the Biden administration intensifies its efforts to encourage Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to implement stricter controls on migration across Mexico.
This caravan is the largest of its kind since 2022, rivaling the size of a previous group that gained attention during the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, an event hosted by the Biden administration. The emergence of this “Christmas caravan” poses a significant political challenge for both President Biden and López Obrador.
The timing is particularly sensitive as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and White House homeland security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall are scheduled to meet with President López Obrador on Wednesday. These talks follow discussions between Presidents Biden and López Obrador, including López Obrador’s request for the U.S. to ease sanctions on Cuba as part of a broader migration reduction strategy in the region.
Local reports suggest that the formation of the caravan is partially a response to Mexican enforcement measures in Tapachula, located near the Guatemalan border. Diario del Sur, a local news outlet, reports that over 100,000 migrants are currently in Tapachula, waiting for documents that would allow them to travel freely through Mexico.
Mexico’s approach of delaying immigration paperwork has historically led to frustration among migrants, especially those eager to leave the nation’s more impoverished areas. This frustration often results in the formation of caravans, where migrants band together for protection against both criminal elements and potential exploitation by corrupt Mexican officials.
The caravan, with banners proclaiming it an “exodus from poverty,” mainly consists of individuals from Cuba, Haiti, and Honduras. Activist Luis García Villagrán, speaking to the BBC, highlighted the ease of crossing from Guatemala to Tapachula as a contributing factor to the caravan’s formation.
President Biden faces growing pressure to reduce the number of apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border, a key metric for immigration policy effectiveness. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has reported over 200,000 encounters at the southwest border for 16 of the past 24 months, and similar figures are anticipated for December.
The Biden administration is signaling a renewed focus on immigration enforcement to lower these numbers. This includes highlighting deportation statistics, making concessions on border policy in exchange for aid to Ukraine, and engaging directly with President López Obrador on the issue.
López Obrador has been a cooperative partner with the U.S. on migration enforcement, exemplified by his compliance with programs like the “remain in Mexico” policy during the Trump administration. While Biden is less likely to use threats similar to those employed by his predecessor, the closure of major commercial border crossings due to staffing shortages has impacted the Mexican economy and border communities, prompting López Obrador to act more swiftly.
However, the formation of caravans like the recent one challenges López Obrador’s ability to significantly reduce the number of encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border. Moreover, López Obrador’s requests for policy changes, such as a softer U.S. stance on Cuba, indicate the potential for these migration issues to influence other areas of the Biden administration’s policy.
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