WASHINGTON — A caravan of migrants fleeing Honduras has grown to 4,000 and the Mexican government has sent an additional 500 federal police to its border with Guatemala in anticipation of their arrival, according to U.S. government documents obtained by NBC News.
Part of the caravan, which has split into two groups, is now approaching the Mexico-Guatemala border amidst a surge in border crossings on the U.S.-Mexico border.
In September, U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 41,400 illegal immigrants, up from 37,544 in August, according to numbers not yet released publicly but obtained by NBC News. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the numbers of families and children traveling on their own surged to record levels in September.
Shelters and churches along the border have been flooded as a result of the surge as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have been releasing hundreds of migrants from detention at a time.
Many of the Hondurans traveling in the caravan are children, some traveling with their parents and some without their parents, according to the documents. Because children are afforded special protections in the U.S., their arrival is creating anxiety within the Trump administration that has pledged to decrease illegal immigration. President Donald Trump said last week that he would consider separating migrant families at the border once again, after reversing his controversial "zero tolerance" policy in June.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is tracking the caravan as the Hondurans make their way north towards the U.S. border. Meanwhile, the State Department is attempting to stave off that possibility by compelling the Mexican government to stop them at their border with Guatemala.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Mexico to meet with his counterparts on Friday, where plans to stop the caravan will be a "prominent" topic of discussion, according to a senior State Department official who spoke to reporters on Wednesday.
"I am certain that there will be conversations in Mexico about how we can work together on this issue," the official said about the caravan. "We are certainly looking for concrete results and for solutions that work for both countries."
Trump has threatened to cut aid to Honduras and Guatemala if their governments do not stop the caravan. It remains to be seen what pressure the U.S. will put on Mexico, but a senior DHS official says border agents are hopeful State Department negotiations will significantly curb the numbers that reach the U.S.
The police have been sent in part to quell protesters in the state of Chiapas, which borders Guatemala, who are advocating for the safe treatment of the immigrants, according to the documents. Cooperating with the U.S. on strict border policies has been met with a serious backlash in Mexico and contributed to the election of incoming-President Andres Obrador.