TECUN UMAN: Almost 1,000 Central American migrants entered southern Mexico on Thursday in a test of the new government’s pledge to manage an ongoing exodus fuelled by violence and poverty that has strained relations with the Trump administration.

Mexico’s National Migration Institute said 969 migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua crossed into Ciudad Hidalgo just days after new US-bound caravans of people set off from Central America.

Caravans from Central America have inflamed the debate over US immigration policy, with US President Donald Trump using the migrants to try to secure backing for his plan to build a border wall on the frontier with Mexico.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is pursuing a “humanitarian” approach to the problem, vowing to stem the flow of people by finding jobs for the migrants. In exchange, he wants Trump to help spur economic development in the region.

The US government has been partially shut down for more than three weeks as Democrats resist Trump’s demand that Congress provide $5.7 billion to fund his planned wall.

Mexican officials put wrist bands on the migrants as they entered the country to monitor the flow of people. The bands must be kept until the migrants register with authorities.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2019