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Mexico repatriates some ‘caravan’ migrants

April 3 (UPI) — The Mexican government said it returned about 400 of some 1,200 migrants traveling from Central America toward the United States to their home countries as U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he plans to send the military to guard the southern border until a wall can be built.

The statement from Mexico came Monday evening as Trump lashed out against “large caravans” of people — mostly from Honduras — traveling from Mexico’s southern border last week. The group, initially about 700 people in size, left the southern Mexican town of Tapachula on March 25 and grew in size as it traveled north.

“The big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our ‘Weak Laws’ Border, had better be stopped before it gets there. Cash cow NAFTA is in play, as is foreign aid to Honduras and the countries that allow this to happen. Congress MUST ACT NOW!” Trump tweeted early Tuesday morning.

Pueblos Sin Fronteras — People Without Borders in English — said it has helped coordinate multiple caravan migrations like this in recent years, though this one is the largest.

“The unprecedented number of Central Americans who have joined the current refugee caravan and the high percentage of people fleeing Honduras in the group are the result of multiple political crises in the region provoked in large part by the policies of the U.S. government,” a statement from Pueblos Sin Fronteras said Tuesday, referring to a U.S.-backed military coup in Honduras in 2009.

Mexico’s director of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, Irineo Mujica, told The New York Times that despite Trump’s warning that “our country is being stolen!” on Monday, most of the travelers don’t plan to try immigrate to the United States. He said he expects that between 10 percent and 15 percent of the marchers would seek asylum in the United States.

“He’s trying to paint this as if we are trying to go to the border, and we’re going to storm the border,” Mujica said. “We try to help people to know their rights, things that we as human beings should be doing, try to advocate for human, sensible solutions.”

He told BuzzFeed News he thinks about one-third will stay in Mexico.

“I hope a large majority decide to stay in Mexico now that we’ve seen the reaction from hate groups in the United States,” he said.

The joint statement from Mexico’s Interior and Foreign Affairs ministries said that unlike in previous caravan marches, the government would work to offer refugee status to some of the migrants. The government said it considers the caravan marches — which tend to occur around the Easter holiday — a “public demonstration” to draw attention to immigration and respect for human rights.

Responding to Trump’s assertion that Mexico should stop the migrants before they attempt to travel to the United States, the government statement said it’s “not the responsibility of this government to exercise immigration decision of the United States or any other nation.”

“As in previous years … the Mexican government, through the Ministry of the Interior, has kept the United States government fully informed about the development of the caravan, through the embassy of that country in Mexico City,” the statement said.

Trump, meanwhile, reiterated his intention to send the U.S. military to the Mexican border in the absence of a border wall.

“We are going to be guarding our border with our military. That’s a big step,” he said during a meeting with Baltic leaders Tuesday. “We cannot have people flowing into our country illegally, disappearing, and by the way never showing up for court.”

In a background briefing with reporters Monday, senior White House officials said they’re pushing Congress to fix what the administration considers to be “loopholes” in the Trafficking Victims Protections Reauthorization Act and the Flores Settlement Agreement in order to speed the process of deporting some asylum seekers. The officials said that doing so would help alleviate a “huge backlog” of cases in immigration courts.

The Justice Department issued a directive last week saying U.S. immigration judges must clear at least 700 cases each year in order to get a “satisfactory” rating.

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