Thousands of migrants have attempted to break through the Guatemala-Mexico border. US President Donald Trump has demanded that Mexico halt the caravans of migrants before they reach the US border.
Thousands of Central American migrants, mostly from Honduras, attempted to force their way through the Guatemalan border with Mexico on Friday, only to be pushed back by Mexican riot police.
Multiple migrants and police officers were injured as crowds hurled rocks at the security cordon imposed along the Mexican side of the border.
People were seen passing their babies overhead through the crowd, while other women held their crying children to their chests as they pushed through the broken metal barriers and onto the border bridge connecting the two countries.
At the very front of the migrant caravan, some managed to break through the final barrier fence into Mexico before being forced back by police. Some said they had been teargassed during the fracas.
"We ask you to please name a committee to hold a dialogue with officials from the National Migration Institute. Don't continue putting women's and children's lives at risk," a Mexican official pleaded with the crowd through a bullhorn.
Later, Mexican authorities initially allowed some women and children to pass through in a trickle before permitting dozens more to enter. Some had been given 45-day visitor permits, AP reported, which would allow them to reach the US border, while AFP cited a Honduran activist saying that the group had been promised refugee permits.
After processing, the women and children allowed through were being bused to a shelter.
In recent days, various groups of migrants have been converging on the Guatemalan border town of Tecun Uman. Thousands are fleeing poverty and insecurity in Central America, where for years violent street gangs have brutally ruled large swathes of turf.
Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala rank among the poorest and most violent countries in the Americas. Honduras, for example, suffers from a homicide rate of 43 per 100,000 citizens.
Emigrants from those states now make up the bulk of migrants caught trying to enter the US illegally every year.
Trump tells supporters no illegal migrants entering US 'on my watch'
Following Friday's storming of the Mexican border, US President Donald Trump told a rally in Arizona that migrant caravans working their way up through Central America would not be allowed into the country "on my watch."
"They are not coming into this country, they might as well turn back," the president said. Without offering any sort of evidence to support his claim, Trump also called many of the people criminals.
Trump also echoed threats he had made a day earlier, saying he would be willing to use military force to halt the flow of migrants and potentially shut down the southern border. The legal ramifications of such a move remain vague.
However, on Friday Mexico's top diplomat Luis Videgaray insisted his government would not cave to US pressure to detain migrants before they reach the US border.
"Mexico's migration policy is for Mexico to decide," he said. "Our position, in essence, is to respect human rights and dignity and protect this group of migrants, particularly the most vulnerable: children, the elderly, pregnant women."
Videgaray's remarks came shortly after he held talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Despite its tough rhetoric, Mexico has been keen to show Trump that it is indeed working to slow the stream of migrants. Previously, caravans had already advanced deep into Mexico before authorities made efforts to process the migrants. Now, the government has turned its attention to its southern border, where it has deployed hundreds of officers and riot police.
dm/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)