Mexican President Makes Desperate Offer to Migrant Caravan

Several thousand Central American migrants turned down a Mexican offer of benefits if they applied for refugee status and stayed in the country’s two southernmost states, vowing to set out before dawn Saturday to continue their long trek toward the U.S. border. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto announced what he called the “You are at home” plan, offering shelter, medical attention, schooling and jobs to Central Americans in Chiapas and Oaxaca states if they applied, calling it a first step toward permanent refugee status. Authorities said more than 1,700 had already applied for refugee status. But after one of the caravan’s longest days of walking and hanging from passing trucks, the bulk of the migrants were boisterous Friday evening in their refusal to accept anything less than safe passage to the U.S. border. “Thank you!” they yelled as they voted to reject the offer in a show of hands in the town of Arriaga. They then added: “No, we’re heading north!” Sitting at the edge of the edge of the town square, 58-year-old Oscar Sosa of San Pedro Sula, Honduras concurred. “Our goal is not to remain in Mexico,” Sosa said. “Our goal is to make it to the (U.S). We want passage, that’s all.” Still 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from the nearest U.S. border crossing at McAllen, Texas, the journey could be twice as long if the group heads for the Tijuana-San Diego frontier, as another caravan did earlier this year. Only about 200 in that group made it to the border. While such migrant caravans have taken place regularly over the years, passing largely unnoticed, they have received widespread attention this year after fierce opposition from U.S. President Donald Trump.