In a move timed to coincide with the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles this week, thousands of migrants are marching through Mexico to the U.S. border.
At least 6,000 migrants departed from the southern Mexican city of Tapachula, less than 10 miles from the border with Guatemala, early Monday. Estimates suggest that the numbers will swell this week to as many as 15,000 people, possibly the largest ever in Mexico.
Organizer Luis Villigran says the wave of people stretches back 32 miles. He told reporters that the migrant march wants to send a message that they are not “bargaining chips for ideological and political interests.”
The majority of migrants hail from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, whose leaders President Joe Biden refused to invite to this week’s summit.
Images of the incredibly long procession hail back to 2018 and 2019, when several large marches of mostly Central Americans moved across Mexico.
The Mexican National Migration Institute calls the caravan the result of a “stunning tsunami of migration” to the U.S. in recent years. It says the spark is soaring rates of violence and economic struggles in Central and South America.
This group of migrants began their journey under rain showers, with many covered in plastic ponchos or carrying umbrellas.
There is considerable controversy over the invitation list for this week’s 9th Summit of the Americas. Many say that only democratic regimes should be allowed to attend, and the decision was revealed Monday to exclude Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
In response to this exclusion, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador confirmed that he will not be attending either.
And even as the summit begins, a final agenda is not set. However, Biden is expected to announce a regional agreement on migration at the gathering.
Border Patrol officials report a record 234,088 migrant encounters in April, with about 97,000 returned using Title 42 restrictions and over 110,000 released into the U.S. The White House attempted to rescind the pandemic-era Title 42, but a federal judge temporarily blocked the move.
Marchers believe they can apply pressure to have Title 42 axed for good. But images of tens of thousands of migrants clamoring at the border are not what the White House wants to portray — that is certain.