Migrants continue trek north as militia members head to New Mexico-Mexico border | KOB 4
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Migrants continue trek north as militia members head to New Mexico-Mexico border

Chris Ramirez
November 11, 2018 11:02 PM

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO- The midterm election put the issue of immigration back into the campaign trail spotlight.  And in 2018, just like in 2016, politicians used migrants to polarize the issue and separate one political party from the other.  The heated rhetoric led people to believe that the United States’ southern border was under some kind of attack by migrants.

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That caused militia members, people with no authorization to detain people or use any kind of force, to head to the border anyway.  Recently, half a dozen members of the group Patriots of the Constitution descended on the southern New Mexico town of Columbus to scout and patrol the border.     

“They dressed like military,” recalls Irma Gonzales, who runs a small restaurant in Columbus.

While in Columbus, the men stayed at a hotel owned by Phillip Skinner.

“Two were from Alabama, two were from the Farmington area and one stayed a couple of nights- he was from Tularosa,” Skinner told KOB4.

The men told some of the residents in Columbus they headed to the border after the Patriots of the Constitution leaders put out a call on social media warning of an incoming migrant invasion.

“They came down to sit and scout along the border,” said Skinner.  “They said that if they see somebody, they report it to border patrol.   They wanted to be eyes and ears on the border.”

The Patriots of the Constitution Facebook paints a different page.  An administrator wrote that he wanted “authorization to shoot to kill.”  The social media page promotes media coverage of President Donald Trump describing the migrant caravan of Hondurans moving through Mexico as dangerous. 

The militia members are said to have left Columbus last week, but their presence along with recent political rhetoric has left many in Southern New Mexico wondering if that migrant caravan truly is dangerous.  

To find out, KOB4 traveled to Mexico and met with the migrant caravan.

The migrants’ journey began in early October in Honduras.  The caravan started as a few hundred people, but once word spread the group swelled to 7,000.  People from El Salvador and Guatemala joined.  Hondurans are fleeing a country that is terrorized by gang warfare a corrupt government and an unstable economy. 

When KOB encountered the caravan, about 4,000 of them had sheltered at a soccer stadium in Mexico City.  By this point in the journey, many of them had severe feet ailments and needed immediate medical attention.  They formed long lines to wait to receive donated shoes. 

The Mexican government and various charities provided them with medical services, food, water, clean showers and safe place to sleep. Families slept on the floors of large tents, some of the single men opted to sleep in makeshift beds in the stadium seats. 

There are hundreds of children traveling in the caravan and they tried to entertain themselves while at the stadium by jump roping or playing with donated balls. 

A migrant mother named Linda told us her children’s future motivated her to leave her home.

“If we are leaving our country, it’s to find a better future,” Linda said.  “I just want to work and move my family forward.”

While with the migrants, we asked nearly everyone we interviewed the same question—do they know of dangerous people traveling with them.  All replied no.

“We are good people, we help others, we work,” one Honduran man told us.  “People in the United States think we are bad or that we are bandits.   We are nothing like that.”

According to reports from the United States Department of Homeland Security, 270 in the group have been identified as people with criminal histories, including known gang memberships.  DHS also reports that criminal groups have infiltrated the caravan posing as Honduran migrants. 

While the migrants KOB 4 spoke with didn’t report fearing other members of their caravan, at least one expressed concern about Mexican drug cartel along the route.  For that reason, he wanted to trek to Tijuana and try to enter into California, even though that route adds hundreds more miles than trying to cross into South Texas or even New Mexico.  He worried that drug cartel activity around Monterrey and Tamaulipas made the journey in that direction too dangerous. 

None who we spoke with stated they planned to enter the United States illegally.  Those we spoke with were hoping they could apply for asylum once they reached the border. 

Mexico has offered asylum and work visas to the migrants.  Reports indicate about 3,500 of the original 7,000 have decided to remain in Mexico.  It’s predicted that many more make that choice and the people who actually make it to the United States border will be significantly fewer.

Over the weekend, most of the caravan left the Mexico City soccer stadium and started their march north once again.     

Credits

Chris Ramirez

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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