SUCHIATE, Mexico (AP) -- Nearly a thousand migrants that recently crossed from Guatemala into Mexico formed a group Saturday to head north together in hopes of reaching the border with the United States.
The group, made up of largely Venezuelan migrants, walked along a highway in southern Mexico, led by a Venezuela flag with the phrase "Peace, Freedom. SOS." The men, women, children and teenagers were followed by Mexican National Guard patrols.
Migrants told The Associated Press they crossed into Mexico illegally through a river dividing the two countries. They said they decided to organize the group and start out because many had been sleeping on the street and had run out of money to buy food.
"We just want to move forward, to fulfill our American dream and work, because we're all workers here," one Venezuelan, Roseli Gloria said while taking a brief rest along the highway.
She carried a backpack and a piece of rolled up foam for sleeping. She said she had been in Mexico for a week before joining the group.
Participants in the group said that they received little aid from Mexican immigration authorities and that they were given mixed and confusing instructions about how to move forward or seek asylum in the U.S.
The formation of the latest migrant group in southern Mexico comes amid a record migratory flow to the United States from countries across Latin America. In the 12 months through May 2023, U.S. authorities reported nearly 2.5 million encounters with migrants on its southern border, an uptick from the year before.
The journey is not an easy one, with migrants often targeted by kidnappings, extorsion and other violence from armed groups in the region. As a result, migrants often travel in groups of hundreds to stay safe.
Migrants from Venezuela previously sought refuge in other South American nations like Colombia and Peru, but increasingly they are making the perilous journey through the jungles of the Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama in an attempt to reach the U.S.