'We are not killers:' Migrants in caravan respond to Trump

DONAJI, Mexico (AP) — As President Donald Trump ramped up his anti-migrant rhetoric ahead of Tuesday's midterm elections, exhausted Central Americans walking across Mexico in hopes of reaching the United States said they were mostly perplexed and turned off by his threats, which they perceive as exaggerated.

The U.S. president has spent the final days of the campaign hammering the issue as he tries to energize Republican voters, and his favorite target has been the migrant caravan of almost 4,000 people that is still more than 800 miles away from the nearest U.S. border. Three smaller ones are following behind it.

Trump's recent statements include that he plans to sign an order that could lead to the detention of migrants crossing the southern border, and barring anyone caught crossing illegally from claiming asylum. Both propositions are legally dubious. Trump also said he had told the U.S. military mobilizing at the southwest border that if U.S. troops face rock-throwing migrants, they should react as though the rocks were "rifles."

"It is pure ignorance for him to think like that," said Marta Cuellos, a 40-year-old from Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital. "A rock is not the same as a rifle."

While some migrants have clashed with Mexican police at a bridge on the Guatemala border, most of those traveling with the caravans have been peaceful and say they are fleeing violence and poverty at home. Those traveling through the southern state of Oaxaca on Friday said they are not looking for trouble.

Cuellos said she owned a cantina back home in Honduras but left because she could no longer make rent and was being harassed by police. She persuaded her 35-year-old sister to join her on the trip, and said the only thing they want is work and a better life in the United States. It's her second attempt. She first crossed into the U.S. seven years ago but was deported last year.

Selvin Maldonado, a 25-year-old from Copan, Honduras, said he left his wife and baby daughter at home in search of a better living to support his children. He took his 5-year-old son, Dennys, with him.

"What Trump said is stupid," Maldonado said while walking to the town of Donaji. "I don't want to attack police, because my concern is my son."

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A day in the life of the migrant caravan in Mexico
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A day in the life of the migrant caravan in Mexico
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, takes a rest on the road, as she walks to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, rests on the road with her son Adonai, as they make their way to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File photo SEARCH "GLENDA ESCOBAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, plays with her son Adonai in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, sleeps in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, poses for a photograph with her children Adonai and Denzel in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, smiles as she rests in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, poses with her son Denzel, 8, as they rest in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, rests in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, rests on the road with her son Denzel as they walk to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, prepares the sleeping place after arriving at a makeshift camp with her sons Adonai and Denzel, in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Denzel, 8, holds his brother Adonai, 5, near their mother Glenda Escobar, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, as they walk to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, prepares the sleeping place after arriving at a makeshift camp with her sons Adonai and Denzel, in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, cries after talking on the phone, in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, rests on the road, on her way to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, poses for a photograph as she rests in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, takes a ride in a vintage car with her children Adonai and Denzel, as they walk to Pijijiapan from Mapastepec, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Adonai, 5, son of Glenda Escobar, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, smiles as he rests in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Mexico October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Glenda Escobar, 33, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, prepares the sleeping place after arriving at a makeshift camp with her children Adonai and Denzel, in Pijijiapan, Mexico, October 25, 2018. Picture taken October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
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The migrants also were also turned off by the U.S. president's characterization of the slow-moving caravan and the three smaller ones following as "invasion." Trump has proposed detaining migrants in massive tent cities at the border.

"We are not killers," said Stephany Lopez, a 21-year-old Salvadoran with the first caravan. "We just want to work for a few years, and after that he can deport us if he wants."

Lopez noted that the president's mother, who was born in Scotland, was an immigrant.

"He should think of us as equals. Immigrants have built that country," she said.

In June, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that domestic and gang violence would generally no longer be accepted as reasons for migrants to be granted asylum. Trump has said this week that those in the caravan would not get asylum — though U.S. law allows them the right to apply — and warned them to turn around.

The Trump administration's vehement opposition and tough rhetoric has at least some in the caravan weighing alternatives.

Tifany Morandis, 19, was traveling with her husband, 28-year-old Javier Sanchez, and their two sons, 7-year-old Angel and 9-month-old Cesar. Her nose and face sun-scorched after many days on the road, she said she was very tired and is considering stopping in Tijuana, the Mexican border city across from San Diego.

"Donald Trump has made things very complicated at the border, and better that we stay in Tijuana than fight with him," Morandis said.

But many are hopeful. "Even stones can soften," Cuellos said.

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