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US And Mexico Move To Block Honduran Migrant Caravan, Triggering Human Rights Concerns

Honduran migrants leave Guatemala City at sunrise as they make continue their...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Honduran migrants leave Guatemala City at sunrise as they make continue their way north toward the U.S., Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018.

Attorneys and activists are raising concerns that the U.S. and Mexican governments are endangering the lives of people in a migrant caravan while thwarting asylum obligations under international and domestic laws.

Amid Twitter tirades from President Trump on Thursday, Mexican federal police stood ready to block a mass exodus of Hondurans from entering Mexico.

About 150 volunteers, including members of the migrant advocacy group Pueblo Sin Fronteras, were standing guard near Rio Suchiate at the Mexico-Guatemala border to save anyone who might drown while trying to circumvent Mexico's police blockade.

Irineo Mujica, one of the group's leaders, said people are jumping on flimsy rafts to try to cross the river. Mujica said he blames the U.S. and Mexico for any deaths that may occur since the police were sent after President Trump demanded that Mexico stop the migrants, many of whom are fleeing violence and plan to seek asylum in the U.S.

“There are hundreds of women and children, so we are worried that some of them might drown," Mujica said. "We are urging the Mexican government not to use violence because these people have rights, international rights to seek asylum."

Hours after KPBS spoke to Mujica by phone, a Facebook Live video shared by Pueblo Sin Fronteras showed Mujica being pushed into a white van by Mexican federal police and immigration officials. KPBS has been unable to reach him since.

Mexico's federal police and immigration officials didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The leader of the Honduran caravan, former Honduran lawmaker Bartolo Fuentes, was also detained by Mexican immigration officials a day after KPBS spoke to him to schedule an interview for that same day.

Nicole Ramos, an immigration attorney with Al Otro Lado, said Mexico is committing human rights violations on behalf of the U.S. and that both countries are breaking international asylum law, which prohibits countries from sending people back to countries where they fear for their lives.

"It's very confusing to me why the Mexican government would do the bidding and the dirty work of the United States government, given all the racist rhetoric that has come out of this administration," she said. "Why the Mexican government would allow itself to be used in this fashion against its own people... it's really a betrayal."

The Mexican government receives tens of millions of U.S. dollars a year for law enforcement efforts, including border security.

The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Mexico has deployed federal police to keep a mass exodus of Hondurans from entering its southern border as President Trump demands Mexico stop the caravan. Human rights activists and attorneys say this is endangering lives.

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