(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned participants in the migrant “caravan” moving through Mexico Tuesday that they will not breach the U.S. border illegally “no matter what,” as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley raised questions about a political agenda, accusing socialist leaders in the region of stoking the campaign.
Pompeo told reporters at the State Department the U.S. has a message for the column of Central Americans aiming to reach the U.S. southern border.
“You will not be successful at getting into the United States illegally, no matter what,” he said. “I repeat: The caravan will not cross our southern border illegally, under any circumstances.”
Pompeo said migrants wishing to come to the U.S. as refugees must “go through the normal refugee process.”
“But I can tell you with certainty, we are determined that illegal entry into the United States from this caravan will not be possible.”
Pompeo said he had spoken again to his Mexican counterpart, Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray, urging “timely action” by the Mexican authorities.
Mexico’s government said its agencies have registered 1,699 applications for refugee status in Mexico. Those applicants are no longer in the caravan, but sheltering in a fairground in Tapachula in the south of the country, with the U.N. refugee agency helping to process them. Another 495 Hondurans had agreed voluntarily to return home, it said.
Meanwhile the caravan, comprising mostly Honduran migrants and now more than 7,000-strong, is in the vicinity of Huixtla in Mexico’s southern Chiapas state, still more than 1,000 miles from the nearest U.S. border crossing at McAllen, Texas.
A second, smaller, caravan from Honduras is reportedly moving through Guatemala towards the Mexican border.
Vice President Mike Pence said during an interview Tuesday that Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández had told him the campaign “was organized by leftist groups in Honduras, financed by Venezuela, and sent north to challenge our sovereignty, and challenge our border.”
“Need to look at political motives behind the caravan,” Haley said on Twitter later in the day. “Honduran politicians allied w Venezuelan & Cuban socialist dictators are encouraging the caravan to undermine U.S.-friendly gov't of Pres Hernandez.”
“The U.S. is a country of laws, not border chaos,” Haley added.
Attention has focused in recent days on Bartolo Fuentes, a Honduran former lawmaker in the leftist Libre Party which was part of an opposition coalition that lost a controversial presidential election late last year to Hernández.
Fuentes, who has admitted playing a role in facilitating the initially much smaller caravan that left the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula earlier this month, was arrested by police in Guatemala as the caravan moved through that country last Tuesday, and deported.
The Libre party is led by former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, a left-winger ousted by the military in a 2009 coup after violating the constitution by pressing for an extension of presidential term limits.
Zelaya, a close comrade of the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, later returned to Honduras from exile, and has been agitating for the defeat of Hernández’ “capitalist dictatorship.”
An outspoken supporter of Chavez’ embattled successor Nicolás Maduro, Zelaya recently attended a forum of leftist leaders in Havana that included Maduro, former Cuban leader Raul Castro, and Bolivian President Evo Morales.
On social media he has been tweeting and retweeting shows of support for the migrant caravan, while promoting the Libre party’s views that Hernández and U.S. policies are to blame for the conditions that Honduran migrants are trying to escape.
On the day that the caravan assembled and departed from San Pedro Sula, Zelaya posted a tweet saying, “The U.S. is legally and morally obliged to grant asylum to migrants for the state of terror and death caused by the military violence, fraud, privatization, and organized crime of the dictatorship of JOH [Juan Orlando Hernández] that they sustain and support.”
In a tweet Tuesday reacting to Pence’s claim, Zelaya said the U.S. was parroting Hernández’ “slander.”