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Migrant Caravan Moving Toward The U.S. Swells To About 5,000 People


A group of migrants is focusing fresh attention on the flow of people from Central America. They have been labeled a caravan. We're talking about upwards of 7,000 people, many of them fleeing violence in Honduras. They're moving northward, and many hope to reach the United States. Now, Mexican authorities spoke of stopping them, but then let them pass into southern Mexico. Over the weekend, President Trump delivered a stern message.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: These are hardened criminals. These are tough, tough people. And I don't want them in our country.

GREENE: Now, we should say the president made these claims about these migrants without offering any evidence. And we want to turn now to reporter James Fredrick, who is on the ground and has been following them. Hi there, James.


GREENE: So where exactly are you? And talk to me about the conditions of the people in this caravan.

FREDRICK: So I am in Tapachula, Mexico, right now. It's about 20 miles north of the Mexico-Guatemala border. And I'm here in the central square where the caravan ended yesterday. People here are just sleeping on the street. I mean, right now I'm looking, you know, at a little girl who is tucked under a blanket with her mom. Right next to them is a little boy - he's probably 3 or 4 years old - with his parents. There's a guy just sleeping under a little plastic bag here. These people walked more than 20 miles yesterday to get here. Temperatures got above 90 degrees. So you can just tell they're absolutely exhausted.

GREENE: Yeah, I can imagine. So, I mean, in addition to sleeping on sidewalks and walking those long distances and exhaustion, I mean, it's I guess a lot of uncertainty about whether the Mexican government, whether the U.S. government is actually going to let them continue this journey.

FREDRICK: Yeah, and it's been very confusing to try to figure out exactly what the Mexican government's strategy is here because yesterday I was walking with the caravan and we heard there was a blockade being set up by Mexican police, so we went to check it out. They had, like, 200 riot police ready to stop the caravan. And then a couple minutes later, they just took this blockade away, all the police left, and the caravan kept marching. So they don't know if the Mexican government is really going to put police there to try to stop them or if they're going to be able to continue north. It's just not clear yet.

GREENE: So we've been obviously reporting on migrants from Central America making their way to the United States for a long time now. This group - I mean, correct me if I'm wrong - seems particularly large. Does that tell us anything?

FREDRICK: So you're right. We have been seeing for years people fleeing countries like Honduras and El Salvador and Guatemala. There's, you know, lots and lots of crime. Gang crime is very bad there. You know, poverty is also really bad. You know, talking to people about why they're in this caravan, why so many of them have come together, they just said they saw the caravan as an opportunity to be safer because this migrant route is so dangerous for migrants. And especially if you're traveling with kids, traveling alone puts you at risk of so many things - of cartels and gangs attacking you, which is very common here in Mexico. So they saw this as the safest way to get out of their countries. And they think the United States is the safest and best place they can be.

GREENE: OK. And of course President Trump now saying no, that they are not going to be allowed into the country. So a lot of uncertainty for the group you're following. That's reporter James Fredrick speaking to us about this caravan of migrants moving northward. He's speaking to us from Mexico. James, thanks a lot.

FREDRICK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.