DHS, Texas officials prepare for ‘mother of all caravans’ allegedly assembling in Mexico

Border Report Tour

Haitian, Central American migrants continue to pour into Tapachula, Mexico, as deadline for trek north approaches

Migrants link arms on the highway leading to Tapachula, Mexico, Thursday Jan. 23, 2020, where they are blocked by National Guards. Hundreds of Central American migrants crossed the Suchiate River into Mexico from Guatemala Thursday after a days-long standoff with security forces. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Less than three weeks after clearing 15,000 migrants from a camp in Del Rio, Texas, law enforcement officials stand ready to react to any new, sudden rise in migrant encounters.

A challenge already is brewing 1,500 miles to the south, where activists are organizing a caravan of Haitian and Central American migrants they say will depart for the U.S. border on Oct. 23. Organizers are calling this group assembling in Tapachula, Chiapas, the “Caravana Madre,” or Mother Caravan, and estimate it will be tens of thousands of people strong.

Border Report reached out to the Department of Homeland Security and the Texas Department of Public Safety to verify they are aware of this development.

“The Texas Department of Public Safety is committed to securing our southern border,” DPS said in an email to Border Report. “While the department does not discuss operational specifics, we continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds in order to make real-time decisions and will adjust operations as necessary.”

DPS has deployed 1,000 state troopers and Texas Rangers to enhance border security under Operation Lone Star. During the Del Rio crisis, its vehicles formed a “shield” near the riverbanks. It was a high-profile maneuver nearly at the end of a humanitarian crisis that saw thousands of Haitians camp on the ground several days waiting for processing and tense moments between the migrants and U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback.

A line of Texas Department of Safety vehicles lines the bank of the Rio Grande near an encampment of migrants, many from Haiti, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection also said it’s ready to address a possible surge.

“CBP plans for all possible scenarios based off information on the operations of smugglers or the movements of migrants,” a CBP spokesperson told Border Report. “Our posture and response are based on comprehensive analysis, not on any single report. CBP stands ready to address any potential increase in migrant encounters.”

The agency said it wants to ensure a safe and secure border while “managing a fair and orderly immigration system.”

FILE – In this Sept. 18, 2021, file photo Haitian migrants use a dam to cross into the United States from Mexico in Del Rio, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Last month’s arrival of 15,000 Haitians and Central Americans to Del Rio may have caught U.S. and Mexican immigration officials off guard, but that likely won’t happen this time, observers said.

Deconstructing a crisis in Texas

The Biden administration has spent the better part of 2021 urging Mexico to help stem the flow of illegal immigration to the United States. Mexico has responded by shoring up its National Guard presence near the border with Guatemala and continuing to accept large numbers of third-country citizens expelled from the U.S. under the Title 42 public health rule.

So, what happened in Del Rio?

“It was at least a couple of factors,” said Ariel Ruiz, policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. “It was Mexican Independence Day (Sept. 16) and people took advantage of low levels of Mexican immigration officers. Also, some Haitian migrants were already in the Mexican interior and moved quickly in smaller groups or in buses and cars or hitchhiking.”

Mexico has since tightened its policies. Now it requires people at bus stations to show ID cards to deter travel by unauthorized migrants. It also has built up a presence on highways in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca and Veracruz – where people coming out of Chiapas must pass through. Also, Mexican immigration officers are being coached to avoid high profile confrontations such as one caught on camera last month.

“If the caravan happens, I don’t foresee the same level of confrontation we saw last time,” Ruiz said. But “Biden since the last caravan has sent even stronger messages to Mexico for enhanced cooperation on immigration. Sure, some will evade those controls and make it to the border, but I don’t think in such great quantity or gather in the same spot.”

That might mean the activist-led caravan coming out of Chiapas breaks up into smaller groups, with some making it to the U.S. border by themselves and others being picked up by smuggler groups along the way.

“Thinking from the migrant perspective – or from the smugglers’ perspective – with all the attention brought about by Del Rio, I think they’re going to adapt as well,” Ruiz said.

Would you marry a Haitian for 25,000 pesos?

Meantime, Haitians and Central Americans continue pouring into Tapachula.

“The border is still wide open,” said a Monday headline in a local newspaper. “Would you marry a Haitian migrant for 25,000 pesos?” asked a Mexican blog exposing an alleged trend of Haitian males trying to buy residence in Mexico by marrying a local.

El Sol de Mexico says 42 Mexican women have married Haitian men in the past six weeks. It quotes Luisa, a Mexican woman, said she was paid and given an airplane ticket to marry a Haitian named Leroi.

“Maybe it is not right, but if I can help him and he can help me, I don’t see how it’s wrong,” Luisa, a call center employee, told El Sol de Mexico.

Twenty-five thousand pesos are about US $1,350. 

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