The caravans of Central Americans currently traveling northward through Mexico are but the “tip of the iceberg” of a massive and unseen flow of migrants at Mexico’s southern border from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, said a high-ranking appointee in the incoming administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
“The caravans are not the problem,” said Tonatiuh Guillén López, who will take over as head of Mexico’s National Migration Institute, known as INAMI, when the new administration takes office on Dec. 1. “The issue is the movements we do not see, those who are not in the caravan, that is the big issue.”
President Donald Trump, angered by the thousands of Central Americans making their way in large caravans to the U.S. border, has been pushing Mexico to step up enforcement efforts. But Mexico’s incoming president is championing a different approach: to invest in impoverished areas of Central America and southern Mexico so that people don’t feel forced to leave.
“The central question is what is being done so that people have opportunities at home,” Guillén said in an interview last week in Tijuana. “You can’t manage these movements if at the same time you don’t have a development program, these have to go hand in hand.”
The caravans have put the spotlight on the rising numbers of Central Americans who are fleeing communities that are beset by poverty and rampant violence.
“If we don’t come up with development initiatives based on international cooperation, and we don’t confront the problem of Honduras and its crisis, we’re going to have the same cycle, each time more amplified,” Guillén said.