A "caravan" of migrants that has been making its way North from Central America began arriving at a shelter in Tijuana this week with hopes of entering the U.S. as early as this weekend.
Reuters correspondent Delphine Schrank described the scene Thursday:
A first busload arrived Tuesday — another three more in the night. People are tired, but they're happy to be near the U.S. border. Some are a little anxious. Some have poured out of these buses with whatever bags they had after exactly a month-long journey through Mexico. They've been living in all kinds of strange conditions — sometimes outdoors. Yesterday they were in tents in one shelter.
Schrank says the caravan, at its peak, had over 1,000 people. Presently about 600 migrants remain. The group is primarily made up of men, women, and children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras — all areas experiencing unrest including violence and economic hardship. She adds that this year's group has more children than in years prior.
The individual stories they're telling me in great detail are stories of lethal threats that adults face, or a sense of political persecution, or just economic conditions that are so bad that they feel the need to leave now.
The Reuters correspondent notes the 2,000-mile trip has been perilous. Many attempt to hop on a train that runs through Mexico. Severe injuries are common. But she adds that many of the women have a particularly dangerous journey.
Regularly, women are raped. Regularly, all migrants who travel this route are subject to extortion, assault, and run-ins with authorities if they don't have the documentation they need. In this instance, that's the founding reason for moving together as a group. The women and children that have been in this group feel much safer.
While not all of the migrants will try to enter the United States, Schrank says at least 200 plan to seek asylum Sunday. They face long odds.
A lot of them have cases that may be rejected. There's a very high rejection rate for people particularly from Honduras and El Salvador. Like every moment of this journey, it's been spontaneous and improvised, but this day, they plan to be together.
(Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.)