Roughly 1,300 people left San Pedro Sula in northern Honduras on Saturday (October 13) to collectively march north to the United States border. According to Reuters, the mass migration, which some refer to as the “March of the Migrant,” reportedly doubled in size as the group made its way into Guatemala on Monday (October 15).
The crowd, which includes small children, grew in strength despite a faceoff with police wearing riot gear, and a stern message from Washington D.C. that migrants are not welcome to enter the U.S. The reported goal of the marchers is to either seek refugee status once they reach Mexico, or request visas to pass through to the United States, organizer Bartolo Fuentes told Reuters.
Many are fleeing extreme violence and poverty in their home country. More than 64 percent of Honduran households live in poverty, and San Pedro Sula has one of the world’s highest murder rates, Reuters reports. “I believe we’ll get to the United States. There’s no work in Honduras, and you live in fear that they’re going to kill you or your children,” marcher Fanny Barahona, 35, told the news agency. She is an unemployed teacher who walked with her nine-year-old son and carried her two-year-old daughter.
All of this comes just days after Mike Pence met with the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador in D.C. at the Conference for Prosperity and Security in Central America on October 11. He asked the group to do more to stop unauthorized immigration into the States, and suggested that America would somehow return the favor. “If you do more, I’m here to say on behalf of the president of the United States and the American people, we’ll do more,” Pence said, according to The Washington Post.
Juan Orlando Hernandez, the president of Honduras, expressed concern over what exactly they can expect from the U.S., especially when the country is receiving less financial assistance from the Trump administration than it did under previous presidents. According to The Post, the Trump administration proposed $460 million in assistance to the region in 2017—a 30 percent drop from what Congress approved under President Barack Obama the previous year. Hernandez also asked the Trump administration to reunite migrant children with their family members following the controversial separation policy at the Mexico-U.S. border.