Central Americans walking across Mexico tell Trump: We are not killers


central american migrants
Central
American migrants, part of the caravan hoping to reach the U.S.
border, get a ride on trucks, in Donaji, Oaxaca state, Mexico,
Friday, Nov. 2, 2018.

AP Photo/Marco
Ugarte


  • Central Americans walking across Mexico in hopes of
    reaching the United States said they were mostly perplexed and
    turned off by President Donald Trump’s increasingly volatile
    language toward the group.
  • The US president has spent the final days of the
    campaign hammering the issue as he tries to energize Republican
    voters.
  • Trump’s recent statements include that he plans to sign
    an order that could lead to the detention of migrants crossing
    the southern border, and barring anyone caught crossing
    illegally from claiming asylum.

DONAJI, Mexico (AP) — As President Donald Trump ramped up his
anti-migrant rhetoric ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections,
exhausted Central Americans walking across Mexico in hopes of
reaching the United States said they were mostly perplexed and
turned off by his threats, which they perceive as exaggerated.

The U.S. president has spent the final days of the campaign
hammering the issue as he tries to energize Republican voters,
and his favorite target has been the migrant caravan of almost 4,000 people that is
still more than 800 miles away from the nearest U.S. border.
Three smaller ones are following behind it.

Trump’s recent statements include that he plans to sign an order
that could lead to the detention of migrants crossing the
southern border, and barring anyone caught crossing illegally
from claiming asylum. Both propositions are legally dubious.
Trump also said he had told the U.S. military mobilizing at the southwest border
that if U.S. troops face rock-throwing migrants, they should
react as though the rocks were “rifles.”

“It is pure ignorance for him to think like that,” said Marta
Cuellos, a 40-year-old from Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital. “A
rock is not the same as a rifle.”

While some migrants have clashed with Mexican police at a bridge
on the Guatemala border, most of those traveling with the
caravans have been peaceful and say they are fleeing violence and
poverty at home. Those traveling through the southern state of
Oaxaca on Friday said they are not looking for trouble.

Cuellos said she owned a cantina back home in Honduras but left
because she could no longer make rent and was being harassed by
police. She persuaded her 35-year-old sister to join her on the
trip, and said the only thing they want is work and a better life
in the United States. It’s her second attempt. She first crossed
into the U.S. seven years ago but was deported last year.


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Selvin Maldonado, a 25-year-old from Copan, Honduras, said he
left his wife and baby daughter at home in search of a better
living to support his children. He took his 5-year-old son,
Dennys, with him.

“What Trump said is stupid,” Maldonado said while walking to the
town of Donaji. “I don’t want to attack police, because my
concern is my son.”

The migrants also were also turned off by the U.S.
president’s characterization of the slow-moving caravan and the
three smaller ones following as “invasion.” Trump has proposed
detaining migrants in massive tent cities at the border.

“We are not killers,” said Stephany Lopez, a 21-year-old
Salvadoran with the first caravan. “We just want to work for a
few years, and after that he can deport us if he wants.”

Lopez noted that the president’s mother, who was born in
Scotland, was an immigrant.

“He should think of us as equals. Immigrants have built that
country,” she said.

In June, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that domestic
and gang violence would generally no longer be accepted as
reasons for migrants to be granted asylum. Trump has said this
week that those in the caravan would not get asylum — though U.S.
law allows them the right to apply — and warned them to turn
around.

The Trump administration’s vehement opposition and tough rhetoric
has at least some in the caravan weighing alternatives.

Tifany Morandis, 19, was traveling with her husband, 28-year-old
Javier Sanchez, and their two sons, 7-year-old Angel and
9-month-old Cesar. Her nose and face sun-scorched after many days
on the road, she said she was very tired and is considering
stopping in Tijuana, the Mexican border city across from San
Diego.

“Donald Trump has made things very complicated at the border, and
better that we stay in Tijuana than fight with him,” Morandis
said.

But many are hopeful. “Even stones can soften,” Cuellos said.

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