- Comprising more than 7,000 migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela, Cuba, and Haiti, Migrant Caravan No. 32 has started its march through Mexico toward the United States.
- U.S. Border Patrol and relief agencies have exceeded their capacity for holding migrants, which will likely lead to the creation of a new homeless class as migrants are abandoned on the streets of U.S. border cities.
- States that host “sanctuary cities” (i.e., cities that discourage local law enforcement from reporting an individual’s immigration status) are feeling the cost of providing support to the increasing number of migrants entering the United States. Meanwhile, several border states are using litigation to circumvent federal immigration regulations, and Congress remains locked in a stalemate — unable to reach a deal that would provide legislative or financial relief to the states and cities bearing the brunt of the burden.
- Distracted by hurricane relief efforts in Acapulco following the devastation caused by Hurricane Otis, Mexican authorities and are expected to largely ignore the caravan.
- Caravan No. 32 is anticipated to generate an enormous windfall for Mexican cartel cells that specialize in human trafficking, an estimated $28 million.
- National security concerns brought by the Israel-Hamas war will heighten screening efforts and likely lead to the discovery of special-interest aliens among the many migrants attempting to enter the United States.
Details about Caravan No. 32
The mass migration of people through Mexico to the United States is a relatively new phenomenon, with the first migrant caravan forming in 2017. The latest iteration, Caravan No. 32, began forming in the city of Tapachula, Chiapas on Oct. 26, 2023 according to news media and other sources operating in Mexico. This is the 32nd caravan that has been tracked by the Baker Institute Center for the U.S. and Mexico since the center began following their formation and progress in 2017, when these mass movements began.
Comprised of more than 7,000 migrants, Caravan No. 32 began its journey north on Oct. 30, 2023, and is sponsored by the organization Pueblo Sin Fronteras (“People Without Borders”), per their Facebook page. Migrants are reportedly from Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela, Cuba, and Haiti and include more than 3,000 women, children, and older adults. The caravan is traveling by foot, with some of the elderly limping along with the aid of walkers and others being pushed in wheelchairs.
Advancing at a rate of approximately 15 to 20 kilometers per day, an estimated arrival date or destination remains unknown. At this rate, the group could take well over 100 days to traverse the 2,000-kilometer distance across Mexico. If history is any indication, the caravan will surely grow in size and reach the U.S. border by year’s end if not sooner.
Consequences for the US and Mexico
Border Protection and Relief Agencies Overwhelmed
Aside from initial screenings, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and other support agencies at the southern border have exceeded their capacity to hold and further process migrants. With shelters along the border already overflowing with migrants, many relief agencies will be unable to provide basic needs for new arrivals.
In a recent statement, the CBP indicated that when nongovernmental organizations are over capacity, their agency attempts to coordinate with local governments to identify “alternate safe locations where migrants can conveniently access transportation services or accommodations.” But in reality, it appears that many migrants are simply being abandoned on the streets. In San Diego, more than 18,500 migrants have been released directly into the city since September 2023.
Moreover, the policy of “catch and release” — the practice of releasing a migrant to the community rather than holding them in detention while they await a hearing in immigration court — has largely been replaced by “process and release” since very few migrants are sanctioned for illegally arriving in the U.S. and instead are released without consequence. This negates the Border Patrol’s “Consequence Delivery System” — the series of legal consequences intended to be applied to persons unlawfully entering the United States. The new, more lenient approach has, therefore, done little to prevent unlawful border crossings and reduce recidivism.
Federal-State Tensions Rising over Immigration Policy
States such as California and New York have indicated that they are unable to provide adequate shelter and other support for the high number of migrants that have recently arrived in their cities. In fact, many migrants have been haphazardly shuttled to self-described “sanctuary cities” (i.e., cities with a policy, written or unwritten, that discourages local law enforcement from reporting an individual’s immigration status) in the past year.
The ongoing arrival of such large numbers of migrants places most of the financial burden for their health and welfare on state and local budgets. However, local governments are beginning to balk at the federal government’s failure to enforce immigration laws and the lack of federal financial support to care for so many indigents.
Cartels Likely to Benefit as Mexico’s Resources are Strained
In Mexico, the National Guard and the military have been overtaxed with new missions, including the deployment of some 17,000 troops to Mexico’s Pacific Coast to help victims of Hurricane Otis. This means fewer authorities will be available to provide security for migrants as they traverse Mexico. The absence of visible authority will result in the unimpeded movement of Caravan No. 32, slowed only by the pace of their footfalls.
Having fewer government troops available to monitor the caravan will also cause migrants to be more vulnerable to extortion, sex crimes, kidnappings, and other forms of exploitation that Mexican cartels, or transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), count on for additional forms of revenue.
While the initial formation of Caravan No. 32 can be (self-) attributed to Pueblo Sin Fronteras and will cost each participant little in terms of funds needed to reach the border, migrants will still have to pay fees to whichever TCO controls the plaza or territory at the border crossing. On average, each migrant will be charged $4,000 to arrive on U.S. soil, bringing TCOs a windfall of about $28 million of gross revenue for this caravan iteration.
Border cities on both the Mexican and U.S. sides will be impacted by the sudden influx of 7,000–10,000 migrants arriving in any one city (or cities). The arrival of this “floating” population will cause makeshift camps and tent cities to pop up on the Mexican side, putting extra strain on Mexico’s municipalities.
US National Security Concerns
There is power in large numbers, and a collective movement such as a mass migration event not only has benefits for participants but could also harm U.S. interests. On the one hand, movement by caravan prevents mass exploitation and victimization of migrants by TCOs. On the other, such a large number of people arriving at the border concurrently could overwhelm U.S. immigration authorities and efforts, possibly impairing the ability of the CBP to effectively screen migrants for national security risks.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, along with the National Counterterrorism Center, recently issued the Joint Intelligence Bulletin advising state and local law enforcement agencies that “lone offenders inspired by, or reacting to, the ongoing Israel-HAMAS conflict pose the most likely threat to Americans.” Caravan No. 32 comes at a time when this conflict has catapulted immigration security to the forefront of the homeland security mission. U.S. Border Patrol agents are the first to encounter and assess whether migrants are true to their stated migratory cause or if they are instead state or nonstate actors attempting to infiltrate the chaotic U.S. border with harmful intentions.
It is especially important to properly screen migrants and validate their identities given that the CBP recently reported the interception or detainment of numerous special-interest aliens (i.e., individuals from countries with conditions that promote terrorism) along with known and suspected terrorists from countries that are hostile to the United States.
What to Expect in the Coming Months
Some migrants that arrive with Caravan No. 32 will likely rush or storm across the border into the United States. This “human wave” tactic proved successful at the border city pairs of Juarez, Chihuahua and El Paso, Texas, during March 2023, and in Piedras Negras, Coahuila and Eagle Pass, Texas, in January 2022. Having gained experience from these events, CBP agents and state police officials will likely be prepared for migrants to storm border facilities at or between ports of entry and will quickly quell any disorder.
Most, if not all, Caravan No. 32 migrants will be “processed and released” into the interior of the U.S. given that the CBP has repatriated only a small percentage of the migrants that have arrived in the U.S. illegally over the last 12 months.
Amid the confusion that a mass movement event brings, Homeland Security officials will also likely announce that they have detected and detained more special-interest aliens from nations hostile to the U.S.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle will share in the outcry and concern over the situation at the border and will likely argue that current migration policy needs immediate attention — especially given the unexpected national security threat posed by the Israel-Hamas war.
Lastly, U.S. border states will continue to express their frustration at many levels, including a continuous barrage of challenges to federal laws. For example, under Operation Lone Star, Texas directly asserted state sovereignty over immigration matters through the use of floating barriers and concertina wire. Other border states may indirectly apply state trespassing laws and other elements of the penal code to circumvent federal immigration regulations.
US Policymakers Must Develop a Response to Mass Migration Waves
The U.S. government needs to pay more attention to mass migrant movements such as Caravan No. 32. By tracking and predicting migrant flows, the government can be more proactive in addressing the challenges posed by mass movement events. To that end, governmental and nongovernmental entities alike must ensure that the mass migration event of Caravan No. 32 is recognized as significant. All concerned parties must cooperate to develop a mitigation plan in response to this massive wave of migrants before it reaches the U.S. border.
Latest Updates on Caravan No. 32
Experts at the Baker Institute are in communication with various sources — including private, professional, government, and commercial entities — to access on-the-ground developments as Caravan No. 32 progresses. We will provide the latest updates on Caravan No. 32 as it travels northward and its destination(s) becomes more defined.
Day 4: Nov. 2, 2023
Oscar Blue Ramirez of Real America Voice News reported that some of the migrants in Caravan No. 32 are now being transported north from Huixtla, Chiapas by bus and taxi. This is reportedly being organized by Mexican cartels.
Migrants have stated that they are headed for as many as three U.S.-Mexico border city-pair destinations:
- Sonoyta, Sonora and Lukeville, Arizona.
- Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua and El Paso, Texas.
- Piedras Negras, Coahuila and Eagle Pass, Texas.
More Migrants in the Queue
Another 60,000 migrants are reportedly waiting to trek north from Tapachula, Chiapas, once they obtain visas to enter Mexico or pay the cartels to organize their transportation so that they can avoid Mexican immigration authorities.
Day 6: Nov. 6, 2023
On Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023, Reuters and other media reported that a second, smaller group of migrants numbering several hundred departed the same day from Tapachula, Chiapas, and intends on joining Caravan No. 32 in Huixtla, Chiapas, about 40 kilometers north, where the larger group is apparently stalled.
The pause in movement is likely related to the involvement of Mexican cartels that are known to direct large groups they are smuggling to areas of the border that they control and have determined to be easier crossing points. This activity is also when “smuggler contracts” are developed, requiring migrants to pay for being transported through Mexico and into the United States.
The larger group will likely be divided into smaller groups, provided different colored wrist bands, and transported further north by buses, tractor trailers, taxis, and other mass transit methods.
Many migrants are reportedly using the CBP’s One App to get ahead of the asylum petition process while they march toward the United States. The popularity of the app may overwhelm the application process and the CBP website, possibly causing more frustration and confrontation at the border. Meanwhile, Mexico’s government remains largely silent about this mass movement activity.
Day 11: Nov. 10, 2023
Caravan No. 32 Traction
On Oct. 30, the caravan departed from their rally point in Tapachula, Chiapas, and advanced to the community of Viva Mexico where they passed through the first formal Mexican immigration checkpoint with no delays or restrictions. Caravan No. 32 then moved forward to Huehuetan, and then to Huixtla, Chiapas, where they were stalled for two days from Nov. 6 to the 8.
On Nov. 8, or day 9 of the movement, Caravan No. 32 arrived at a Mexican Customs and Excise checkpoint near Huixtla where officials held the caravan for processing. Frustrated and worried about being preyed upon by cartels, activist Irineo Mújica, one of the organizers of the march, stated that the caravan was deliberately blocking a major highway that hugs the Pacific coast in protest of not being provided documentation to proceed further into Mexico.
Our sources in Mexico report that members of Caravan No. 32 are headed primarily for border cities of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas; Piedras Negras, Coahuila; and Juárez, Chihuahua. Some may venture to the western states of Sonora and Baja California Norte.
The main body of Caravan No. 32 is expected to proceed north from the area of Huixtla to Arriaga, then through Juchitan, before moving on to Tepanaltepec, Oaxaca, and Puebla, Estado de Mexico, not far from Mexico City.
Once the main group reaches Querétaro, Queretaro, or San Luis Potosi, which are north of Mexico City, the caravan will likely break into smaller groups and travel further north to the northeastern border states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas (Figure 1).
Figure 1 — Route From Arriaga to San Luis Potosi to the Northeast Border States
Those headed for the western states of Sonora and Baja California Norte will proceed from Queretaro to Guadalajara, then on to Nayarit, walking along the coast until they reach the states of Baja Sonora or Baja California Norte (Figure 2).
Figure 2 — Route From Arriaga to Queretaro to Tijuana
Caravan No. 32 has a lot of ground to cover, and each mile forward increases the risk of further exploitation by the cartels. According to Mújica, “the drug cartels are kidnapping us, killing us” along their march.
Day 14: Nov. 13, 2023
Caravan No. 32 has disintegrated and will not reach the U.S.-Mexico border as a large, singular entity.
Many Caravan No. 32 marchers suffered depredations during their two-week trek. Without providing evidence or filing formal complaints, caravan members complained that marchers had been shot, murdered, and kidnapped along the route. A lack of food and money has left many migrants at the mercy of local non-governmental organizations in Mexico for the provision of life-sustaining needs that are not available in sufficient quantity to supply the large numbers of people that comprise the caravan.
Over the weekend of Nov. 10, 2023, Caravan No. 32 disintegrated into smaller independent groups of 200 to 300 migrants, some of which have continued north on public transportation, while others have returned to Tapachula to seek visas for formal entry and transit through Mexico. In the last two weeks, approximately 500 migrants have been provided temporary status for 30 days by Mexican immigration authorities, allowing them to recover and regroup.
Some of the migrants made it as far north as Mazatepec, Morelos, where they camped for a while before heading back south with an intended stop in Pijijiapan, Chiapas, en route to Oaxaca. Adding to the disarray, another separate group of approximately 1,000 migrants is headed for Tonalá, Chiapas, this morning, Nov. 13. It is reported that this group is accompanied by Irineo Mojica Arzate, an organizer of Caravan No. 32.
The inability of Caravan No. 32 to gain the sustained traction it needed to reach the border will be instructive for future caravan organizers. They will learn that caravans that move independently of human trafficking organizations, or cartels, will be challenged, if not defeated, through attrition, intimidation, and outright removal from the throughways. This leaves the migrant community more vulnerable to organized crime and provides them costly choices. They must either gather sufficient funds to make the trip independently via commercial or public transportation, including the cost of sustenance, or pay more money to the cartels and thereby be delivered onto U.S. soil under their direction and control.
Shortfalls that led to the disintegration of Caravan No. 32 include:
- Lack of Money. The caravan lacked money to enable migrants to purchase food, shelter, and transportation.
- Lack of Security. The lack of Mexican government protection for the caravan due to corruption, disinterest, or distraction attributed to Hurricane Otis relief efforts, contributed to depredation by cartels. Caravan No. 32 was not provided security or protection by Mexican federal or state police during their entire march.
- Failure to Receive Permits. The lack of Mexican government visas to enable individual and independent migrants, even if they traveled en masse, to move without impediment was a major contributor to the caravan’s disintegration. Caravan No. 32 was delayed significantly by Mexican Customs officials in the Huixtla area, and both U.S. and Mexican immigration authorities failed to provide visas — including temporary ones to transit Mexico — or grant asylum for the marchers.
- Limited Media Attention. In the two weeks that Caravan No. 32 was in motion, U.S., Mexican, and international media did show some interest, but reporting was quickly overshadowed by the Israel-Hamas war. The lack of sustained media attention has contributed to the decline in the morale of migrants that originally comprised Caravan No. 32, also adding to their decision to disintegrate into smaller groups.
This is the last and final update for Caravan No. 32. Future caravan iterations will be tracked and reported as information becomes available.
 Gary J. Hale and Jie Ma, “Migrant Caravans: A Deep Dive Into Mass Migration through Mexico and the Effects of Immigration Policy” (Houston: Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, March 2, 2023), https://doi.org/10.25613/6FRS-8K68.
 Valeria Acevedo, “7 mil personas viajan en la caravana migrante que sale de Chiapas,” Connexión Migrante, October 31, 2023, https://conexionmigrante.com/2023-/10-/31/7-mil-personas-viajan-en-la-caravana-migrante-que-sale-de-tapachula-chiapas/.
 Daniel Trotta, “US Releases Asylum Seekers on the Streets. Some Suburbs Bear the Burden,” Reuters, October 17, 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-releases-asylum-seekers-streets-some-suburbs-bear-burden-2023-10-17/.
 Trotta, “US Releases Asylum Seekers on the Streets.”
 Josue Decavele, “Mexico Throws Troops, Aid Into Acapulco As Hurricane Death Toll Rises,” Reuters, October 30, 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/death-toll-mexico-hurricane-otis-rises-43-official-2023-10-29/.
 John Miller and Josh Campbell, “Bulletin Advises of Potential ‘Lone Offender’ Attacks as US Counterterrorism Officials Work to Detect Homeland Threats,” CNN, October 19, 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/10/19/us/counterterrorism-informants-us-threats/index.html; U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), “DHS and FBI Public Service Announcement,” October 25, 2023, https://www.ic3.gov/Media/PDF/Y2023/PSA231026.pdf.
 Elizabeth Lawrence, “Leaked: Thousands of Middle East Illegal Immigrants Tried Crossing US-Mexico Border Since 2021: Report,” American Military News, October 10, 2023, https://americanmilitarynews.com/2023/10/leaked-thousands-of-middle-east-illegal-immigrants-tried-crossing-us-mexico-border-since-2021-report/.
 Randy Clark, “WATCH: Migrant Rush Forces Closure of Texas Border Bridge,” Breitbart, January 3, 2022, https://www.breitbart.com/border/2022/01/03/watch-migrant-rush-forces-closure-of-texas-border-bridge/.
 Reynaldo Ramirez Jr., “Texas’s ‘Operation Lone Star’: The Supremacy Clause and Dual Federalism in Light of Arizona v. United States Federalism,” Texas A&M Law Review 11, no. 1 (2023), https://doi.org/10.37419/LR.V11.Arg.1.
Updated on Nov. 14, 2023, at 8:05 am CST.
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