MEXICO CITY, Mexico — More than 5,000 migrants have arrived in Mexico City, where they're taking a pit stop after completing a grueling 1,000-mile journey in just three weeks.
Police, city employees, humanitarian aid groups and countless volunteers converged on the Jesus Martinez stadium, a sports venue that was converted into a temporary shelter for the thousands of people arriving on their way from Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras.
The first among the group trickled into the city on Saturday, with thousands more arriving in the ensuing days. No official decision has been made on when the trek northward will resume, but there is talk among the migrants that it could be as soon as this weekend.
In the meantime, migrants have had a chance to receive medical treatment, rummage through piles of donated clothes, and line up to make quick calls home in stations set up by the Red Cross.
“The caravan has been a lot harder than I thought,” said Jonathan Suazo Rodriguez, a 23-year-old migrant from Colon, Honduras. “I’ve thought about turning back, but then I think what you have to endure back home, and I have to keep moving forward.”
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has been encouraging them to stay, offering asylum, visas, and jobs to any migrant who wants it, and stepping up the weekslong effort to halt the U.S.-bound caravan, which became the rallying cry for Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric leading up to Tuesday’s midterm elections.
“We’re operating under the assumption that at least half of them will stay in the city or the country,” said Nashieli Ramirez, ombudsman for the city's human rights commission. “These people need to receive all the pertinent information and then make their own decision.”
So far, close to 3,000 migrants have taken them up on that offer, according to Mexican officials — but thousands more are still determined to reach the United States' southern border.
“I have one goal, and that goal is to get to the U.S. with my daughter and give her a better future," said Keila Portillo, a 23-year-old from Honduras traveling with her 4-month-old child. “Politics don't affect me. My goal remains the same, and there is no policy that can stop me in my journey.”
Cover image: A Central American migrant sets up tents to rest for the night in Juchitán, Oaxaca (Credit: VICE News/Jika Gonzalez)
This segment originally aired November 7, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.