A group of Central Americans crossed into Mexico in March as part of a migrant "caravan" heading to the United States border.
CNN reporter follows migrant caravan to US border
04:34 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

It’s part activist march, part humanitarian mission.

The images are striking: throngs of Central American migrants crossing Mexico during Holy Week as they make their way north to the US border.

It’s become an annual tradition, and getting publicity has always been a goal for this and other so-called “caravans” that periodically make their way through Mexico.

This year’s journey is getting even more attention than usual after a series of tweets earlier this month from US President Donald Trump.

Trump’s tweets place the caravan at the center of the US immigration debate, suggesting that the latest waves of people are coming to the United States because of lax laws that don’t do enough to crack down on illegal immigration.

But immigrants in the caravan have said their reasons for heading north have more to do with conditions in their home countries than with any US immigration policies.

Here’s a look at the caravan and the issues at play:

‘Running away from crime’

Guided by an organization known as “Pueblo Sin Fronteras,” or People Without Borders, the annual journey is made up of migrants who say they plan to seek asylum in the United States.

This year marks the fifth Pueblo Sin Fronteras caravan. The migrants began crossing into Mexico last month. This year’s group is the largest yet, numbering more than 1,000 people, according to organizers. A large number are from Honduras, where organized crime fuels widespread violence and protesters recently took to the streets after a contested election.

The group of Central American immigrants made their way into Mexico last week.

In recent interviews with CNN en Español, migrants in the caravan said violence, poverty and political unrest in their home countries forced them to make the journey.

Mexico Migrant Caravan Misael Bonilla
Mexico Migrant Caravan Wendy Alvarez
Mexico Migrant Caravan Sayra Madrid

What happens if they make it to the US?

Alex Mensing of Pueblo Sin Fronteras told CNN that the migrants plan to turn themselves in and request asylum once they make it to the US border.

This is a common practice for Central Americans coming to the United States, who often present themselves at ports of entry and then are taken into custody.

Those who make it to the United States rarely succeed in winning asylum. But their cases can take years to make their way through the backlogged system.

What happens to immigrants after they’re taken into custody at the border is a matter of longstanding debate. The Trump administration has slammed the practice of what it calls “catch and release,” arguing that loopholes require officials to release many families and unaccompanied minors from custody while their cases make their way through the system. The administration says this encourages more illegal immigration.

Immigrants rights organizations have argued it’s unnecessary and immoral to detain families seeking asylum.

Mexico’s foreign minister fires back

“Fox & Friends” reports on the ca