Originally published by Politico
A group of migrant women in the caravan announced Thursday that it would begin a hunger strike to protest the slow pace at which the women are being allowed to apply for asylum, as officials from the United States and Mexico are set to meet this weekend to negotiate a plan to process their claims.
The fast, which has no set end date, represents a dramatic escalation from the migrants, most of whom have been waiting in Tijuana, Mexico, to cross into the United States through official ports of entry for weeks.
The protest raises the stakes for the governments of the United States and Mexico, which have been engaged in a back-and-forth about how to process migrants’ asylum claims. On Sunday, President Donald Trump said on Twitter that Mexico would essentially act as a waiting room for migrants as their applications are processed in the United States, though Mexican officials said no deal had been agreed to yet.
Fifteen women are set to begin striking, and they expect the number will increase gradually. The women who led the group said they want the governments to expedite humanitarian visas for them, to increase the number of migrants being allowed to cross into the United States and to halt deportations against migrants.
“There is nothing worse than to live on the run, withstanding hunger,” one of the women said in a news conference livestreamed by immigrant rights group Pueblo Sin Fronteras. “We are not afraid.”
The women also said they would send a delegate to engage in talks with Mexican immigration authorities.
The fast could put pressure on the incoming administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who will be inaugurated as Mexico’s president on Saturday. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are expected to meet with the incoming administration, including soon-to-be Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, to hammer out a plan for processing migrants after disagreements over the weekend.
Last month, outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced a plan that provided temporary employment for migrants in two states in southern Mexico aimed at enticing them not to continue trekking northward. U.S. authorities are only allowing between 40 and 100 migrants to claim asylum and there were hundreds of asylum-seekers waiting to cross by the time the caravan arrived in Tijuana, across from San Diego.
Further discord over how to deal with the asylum-seekers has unleashed internecine fighting in the White House, exposing fault lines among those in the administration who have opposing views on, among other subjects, the use of force against migrants by troops deployed along the border.
While in Tijuana, tensions have risen as self-avowed nationalists have staged marches against the migrants. Last weekend, when some migrants broke away from a peaceful protest to cross the border, U.S. Border Patrol deployed tear gas against them. Irineo Mujica, director of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, said the hunger strike comes at a breaking point in the caravan’s negotiations with immigration authorities.
“We have been in talks with the new government, with the old government. They haven’t fixed anything,” Mujica said. “The government just keeps making promises and we just keep waiting.”