October 21, 2018 at 12:35 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
New migrant caravan hopes to reach U.S.

A caravan of upwards of 4,000 migrants left San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on Oct. 14, 2018, with hopes of entering the U.S. Sources in Honduras have told the Washington Blade that some of the migrants are LGBTI.

Thousands of migrants who are trying to reach the U.S. left Honduras on Oct. 14.

Reports indicate the migrant caravan, which left from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, reached the Guatemala-Mexico border on Oct. 19.

Activists in San Pedro Sula and in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa with whom the Washington Blade spoke last week said upwards of 4,000 migrants are part of the caravan. The activists also said some of the migrants are LGBTI.

The Blade’s attempts to speak with LGBTI migrants who are part of the caravan have thus far proven unsuccessful.

President Trump has threatened to cut U.S. aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador if their governments did not stop the migrants from leaving their countries.

“We have today informed the countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador that if they allow their citizens, or others, to journey through their borders and up to the United States, with the intention of entering our country illegally, all payments made to them will STOP (END),” he proclaimed on Oct. 16 in a tweet.

Trump on Oct. 18 said he would “call up the U.S. military and close our southern border” if the Mexican government did not “stop this onslaught.” He has also described the migrants as a “large flow of people, including many criminals.”

The Mexican government has begun to process migrants who have entered the country from Guatemala. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Oct. 18 in a statement said the U.S. welcomes the Mexican government’s announcement that it will work with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees “to address immigration issues in the region, including the influx of people arriving in Mexico.”

Pompeo on Oct. 19 spoke further about the migrants during a press conference with Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray in Mexico City.

“The challenge related to securing our southern border is also a challenge for American sovereignty,” said Pompeo.  “We’ve got to fix U.S. laws in order to handle this properly as well. That is an American burden, a uniquely American burden, and as President Trump has said, it’s something that we need to address inside of our country to make sure that we do this well. If we get it right, we will improve the relationship between our two countries materially as well.”

Pompeo later told reporters before he left Mexico City that outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto deployed 500 federal police officers to his country’s border with Guatemala. Pompeo also noted four of them were reported injured on Friday during clashes with migrants who were trying to enter Mexico.

“We understand that to be accurate,” said Pompeo. “We don’t know the severity of those injuries, but I want to express my sympathy to those four policemen. That’s evidence of what this really is. This is a group, a large group of people; they are putting women and children in front of the caravan to use as shields as they make their way through. This is an organized effort to come through and violate the sovereignty of Mexico, and so we’re prepared to do all that we can to support the decisions that Mexico makes about how they’re going to address this very serious and important issue to their country.”

Caravan becomes midterm election issue

The caravan left Honduras less than a month before the U.S. midterm elections.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández and Salvadoran Vice President Óscar Ortiz on Oct. 11 reiterated their governments’ concerns over separation of migrant children from their parents under Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy when they spoke at a conference at the State Department that focused on prosperity and security in Central America. Vice President Pence, who spoke at the conference alongside Pompeo, again urged countries in the Northern Triangle — Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — to stem the flow of migrants.

“The leaders in the room, the governments that you represent, should tell your people don’t put your families at risk by taking the dangerous journey north to attempt to enter the United States illegally,” said Pence. “The truth is your message can probably be summed up by telling them that if they can’t come to the United States legally, they shouldn’t come at all. Say it with strength and say it with compassion as neighbors and as friends because it’s the truth.”

The Honduran government in an Oct. 16 press release said the caravan “was organized by political sectors with false promises of receiving a humanitarian visa that (would allow migrants) to pass through Mexican territory and seek refuge as an asylum seeker in the United States.”

Activists in Honduras with whom the Blade has spoken over the last year say the Honduran government has not done enough to address violence, discrimination and a lack of economic opportunities they have said prompts LGBTI people to leave the country. The activists also noted more than 30 people died in violent protests that took place across Honduras last November after Hernández’s disputed re-election.

The Honduran government in its press release urges migrants “not to put their lives and those of their children at risk,” noting hunger and human trafficking are among the risks they face. The Honduran government also said it “will continue to provide assistance (to migrants) to return to their communities.”

More than 10,000 Salvadorans currently live in D.C.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in January criticized the Trump administration’s decision to end the Temporary Protected Status program for Salvadorans, which has allowed up to 200,000 of them to receive temporary residency permits that have allowed them to stay in the U.S. Bowser traveled to El Salvador in August and reiterated her administration will continue to help migrants who are living in D.C.

A human rights observer watches over a group of migrants who left San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on Oct. 14, 2018.

Trans woman who died in U.S. custody was part of earlier caravan

The migrants that left San Pedro Sula on Oct. 14 are part of the latest migrant caravan from the region in recent years.

Roxana Hernández, a transgender Honduran with HIV who was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on May 9 when she asked for asylum at the San Ysidro Port of Entry near San Diego, was part of a 300-person caravan that traveled to the U.S. border. Hernández died at a New Mexico hospital a few weeks later while in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

A group of 16 trans and gay migrants from Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico who called themselves the Trans Gay Migrant Caravan asked for asylum in Nogales, Ariz., on Aug. 10, 2017.

Anti-LGBTI violence remains commonplace in Central America’s Northern Triangle. Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, poverty and a lack of access to education and health care are among the myriad issues the region’s LGBTI community also face.

LGBTI Salvadorans, Hondurans and Guatemalans are among the more than 225,000 migrants who have tried to enter the U.S. over the last year, even through advocates in the three countries have told the Blade the Trump administration’s immigration policy continues to spark fear throughout the Northern Triangle.

Current U.S. immigration policy has also prompted LGBTI migrants from Central America to remain in Mexico and seek asylum there.

A picture of Roxana Hernández, a transgender Honduran woman with HIV who died in ICE custody in May, hangs on a wall inside the offices of Colectivo Unidad Color Rosa, an LGBTI advocacy group in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on July 11, 2018. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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