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About 2,000 migrants begin a Holy Week walk in southern Mexico to raise awareness of their plight

TAPACHULA, Mexico (AP) — About 2,000 migrants began walking Monday in southern Mexico in what has become a traditional demonstration during Holy Week before Easter to draw attention to their plight.

Leaving Tapachula near the Guatemalan border at dawn, the migrants and their advocates said their goal was to reach Mexico’s capital and highlight the dangers they face including robberies, sexual assaults, extortion and kidnapping.

Mexico has practiced a containment strategy in recent years that aims to keep migrants in southern Mexico far from the U.S. border. Migrants can languish there for months trying to regularize their status through asylum or other means. Migrants say there is little work available, and most carry large debts to smugglers.

The procession included a large white cross painted with the words “Christ resurrected” in Spanish. The day before the march, there was a stations of the cross procession — a time for pilgrimage and reflection — across the river that divides Guatemala and Mexico.

Guatemalan Daniel Godoy joined the walk on Monday with his wife and two children after waiting in Tapachula for four months to regularize their status.

“There’s still no date for the card, for the permit,” he said as they walked down a rural highway. “We decided it’s better to come on our own.”

He carried his 2-year-old daughter on his shoulders and his wife carried their 6-month-old baby.

Rev. Heyman Vázquez Medina, a member of the Catholic Church’s human mobility effort, said Mexico’s immigration policy lacked clarity. He noted that the government dragged its feet in granting legal status to cross the country and kept migrants off public transportation, but let them make the exhausting trek up highways.

“They have to walk under the sun and the rain, kilometers and kilometers, suffering from hunger? Who can take that?” Vázquez said.

Mexico’s government has been under pressure from the Biden administration to control the flow of migrants to the U.S. border.

The U.S. Border Patrol encountered migrants 140,644 times in February, according to data released Friday. That was up from 124,220 in January but well below the nearly 250,000 encounters in December.

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Follow AP’s coverage of migration issues at https://apnews.com/hub/migration