TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – A new U.S.-bound caravan of Honduran migrants grew to nearly 1,000 people as it neared the Guatemalan border on Tuesday, a Honduran official said, while U.S. President Donald Trump seized on news of the group to try to drum up support for a border wall.
Honduran Deputy Foreign Minister Nelly Jerez told reporters that there were between 800 and 1,000 people travelling together and headed towards the Agua Caliente border crossing into Guatemala.
Central American migrant caravans heading towards the United States have inflamed the debate over U.S. immigration policy, with Trump using the groups to seek backing for his plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Television footage on Tuesday showed groups of mostly young men, carrying bags of belongings, leaving the notoriously violent Honduran city of San Pedro Sula and flagging down rides to catch up with the caravan that left the same city on Monday.
“I am going to the United States to see if there is an opportunity to work because here in Honduras there is nothing,” a 25-year old named Cristian told reporters.
The group will likely face weeks of travel to get to the U.S. border.
Around 2,500 migrants from a previous wave of Central Americans who crossed Mexico have been camping in squalid shelters in the Mexican border city of Tijuana.
Trump has described the migrants as an invading force and sent troops to reinforce the border last year. On Monday, the Pentagon announced it would extend the deployment of around 2,350 troops to the U.S. border through the end of September.
As a partial government shutdown dragged into its 25th day on Tuesday, Trump invoked the new caravan on Twitter to pressure U.S. lawmakers. Democrats have resisted Trump’s insistence that Congress shell out $5.7 billion for wall funding.
“A big new Caravan is heading up to our Southern Border from Honduras,” Trump said. “Only a Wall, or Steel Barrier, will keep our Country safe! Stop playing political games and end the Shutdown!”
(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)