An immigrant activist from Phoenix has been arrested in southern Mexico while taking part in a large caravan of several thousand migrants from Central America headed for the U.S. border.
Irineo Mujica was one of the main organizers of last spring’s migrant caravan that prompted President Donald Trump to order the deployment of National Guard troops to the border.
Mujica was arrested Thursday in Ciudad Hidalgo, a town in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, after the latest caravan made up of at least 5,000 migrants from Central America illegally crossed into Mexico from Tecun Umam, Guatemala.
Video posted on Twitter and Facebook showed Mexican federal police and immigration authorities roughly pulling Mujica out of a crowd of migrants, walking him away and then shoving him into a white van.
Mujica was not involved in organizing the most recent caravan, said Alex Mensing, on organizer with Pueblo Sin Fronteras, the binational group that organized last spring’s caravan.
He was there to help coordinate humanitarian assistance in the city of Tapachula after the caravan ballooned in size and approached Mexico, Mensing said.
“He was not involved in organizing the beginnings of the caravan,” Mensing said of Mujica.
On the day he was arrested, Mujica was with a group of migrants marching to a church when they stopped along the banks of the Suchiate River, which separates Mexico and Guatemala.
They wanted to welcome a large wave of migrants, mostly from Honduras, preparing to cross over into Mexico after travelling throrugh Guatemala, Mensing said.
“They were having a peaceful march,” Mensing said.
A group of about 20 Mexican federal police and 15 Mexican immigration officers “broke up the group and went straight for Irineo,” Mensing said.
Mujica was jailed and has been charged with obstructing authorities, according to information distributed to media outlets on WhatsApp, a messaging app.
Mujica was released midday Saturday, Mensing said, and must post a 10,000 peso bond, equivalent to about $520.
He also forfeited his documents, and was ordered not to leave Tapachula until his case is resolved, Mensing said.
Mujica has dual citizenship in Mexico and the United States. He has residences in both Phoenix and Sonoyta, Sonora, where he runs a migrant shelter across the border from Lukeville, Arizona.
Most recently he had been living in Tijuana, Mensing said.
In a series of tweets, Trump has condemned the caravan and has threatened to send the military to shut down the southern border if Mexico doesn’t stop it before it reaches the U.S.
Trump has also threatened to withhold billions of dollars in U.S. aid to the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras unless the governments of those countries take steps to stop the caravan.
During a rally in Mesa on Friday to stoke support for Republicans in the mid-term elections in November, Trump blasted the caravan repeatedly, claiming some “bad people” are traveling with the migrants trying to reach the U.S. border.
“Right now, as you know (in Mexico the caravan), it’s on their southern border and they are finding some bad people in that group,” Trump said. “And you see the people coming up and you listen to the ‘fake news’ back there and you think they are all wonderful people.
“You got some bad people in those groups,” Trump added. “You got some tough people in those groups. And I will tell you something, this country doesn’t want them.”
Mensing said the migrants traveling with the caravan have been caught in the middle of a political firestorm storm headed into midterm elections. But he said the migrants are fleeing horrendous conditions in their home countries, including physical violence, and are not trying to influence the midterm elections.
“That is why people leave: they have no other option,” he said.
The only political statement they are trying to make is that the horrible conditions they are fleeing have been exacerbated by U.S. involvement in Central America, Mensing said.
Before reaching Mexico, Guatemalan police officers arrested a former Honduran opposition party lawmaker and activist, Bartolo Fuentes, one of main organizers of the latest caravan. He was later deported back to Honduras.
Fuentes traveled with last spring’s caravan, organized by Mujica and other members of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, Mensing said.
But Fuentes was not involved with organizing the earlier caravan and Pueblo Sin Fronteras was not involved in organizing the latest caravan, he said.
However, some members have traveled to southern Mexico to march with migrants, organize humanitarian assistance, and to serve as human rights observers.
The caravan on Sunday remained in southern Mexico, according to media reports. As the caravan, made up of men, women and children, swelled into the thousands, the government of Mexico sent two 727 Boeing aircraft filled with federal police officers to intercept them.
On Sunday, the caravan had grown to at least 5,000 people, according to media reports.
The caravan set out earlier last week from San Pedro Sula, in Honduras, one of the most violent cities in the world.