Hundreds of migrants awoke Wednesday morning on a dusty soccer field in southern Mexico, where they have slept for the past two nights after their journey from Central America drew the ire of U.S. President Donald Trump.
They are traveling north through Mexico as part of a caravan organized each year for the past decade by the immigrant advocacy group Pueblo Sin Fronteras. But the caravan isn't heading to the U.S. border, according to Irineo Mujica, the group's director in Mexico.
The plan is to reach the central Mexican city of Puebla, where Pueblo Sin Fronteras will hold an immigrants' rights conference to offer legal advice on seeking asylum and obtaining visas. Then, the caravan will continue to Mexico's capital city.
"After we do our jobs in Mexico City, the caravan in Mexico City is done," Mujica told ABC News in an interview in Matias Romera on Wednesday.
The trek to Mexico City is hundreds of miles from the brown-grass field where they are currently camped out in Matias Romero, in the Mexican state of Oxaca. Mujica said at least 1,000 people remain at the field Wednesday morning, including about 400 women and 300 children.
Many of the migrants fled violence and poverty in their home countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Mujica said a vast majority of them will end up looking for a job and a place to live in Mexico, rather than the United States. Although the caravan will not press on as a group to the U.S. border, he said, the members who make that attempt will do so on their own accord.
"People have the right to live without fear," Mujica told ABC News. "So there's nothing we can do; this is international law."
The pilgrimmage has captured the full attention of Trump, who took to Twitter earlier this week to express outrage that the migrants were "heading here," saying they "better be stopped."
Honduras, Mexico and many other countries that the U.S. is very generous to, sends many of their people to our country through our WEAK IMMIGRATION POLICIES. Caravans are heading here. Must pass tough laws and build the WALL. Democrats allow open borders, drugs and crime!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 3, 2018
The big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our “Weak Laws” Border, had better be stopped before it gets there. Cash cow NAFTA is in play, as is foreign aid to Honduras and the countries that allow this to happen. Congress MUST ACT NOW!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 3, 2018
At a press briefing Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen announced Trump will sign a proclamation directing the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense to work with state governments to deploy the National Guard to the border with Mexico to assist the U.S. Border Patrol.
Mujica told ABC News that Trump has made a "circus" of the annual migrant trek, which Pueblo Sin Fronteras has organized since 2010.
"He's trying to use this as political to get his wall. He's trying to go like, 'The boogie man is coming! The browns are coming!' The browns have Mexico," Mujica said. "Mexico is also a destined place, not only a transit place."
Miguel Antonio Ciguenza, of El Salvador, said he hopes to settle in Mexico City, where some of his relatives reside. He had lived in the United States for 30 years but recently decided to leave because he feared deportation under Trump's administration.
"I want to live all my life there ... Mexico is the best for me," Ciguenza, 50, told ABC News in an interview in Matias Romero on Wednesday. "[The United States] is very nice but the president is the terrible trouble because he try to destroy people."
"It's why I decide to get to another different country to live my life in peace," he added.
Manuel Ramirez, also from El Salvador, said he came to the United States when he was 14. He said he was deported "for the way I look" after living there for 20 years and raising a family of his own.
"Doesn't matter if we're not from Mexico or the United States, we are human beings, we have rights," Ramirez, 34, told ABC News in Matias Romero on Wednesday. "You can see over here, everybody, you see kids, you see mothers, you see parents like me. We're fighting for a better future."
The Mexican government said in a statement late Tuesday that the caravan "began to disperse by decision of its members." It added that 465 migrants had requested transit visas and 230 had received them. Another 168 were expected to receive some sort of visa as well.
As sunlight stretched across the sports field in Matias Romero on Wednesday morning, the migrant families emerged from their blankets and sleeping bags where they slept on patches of grass or beneath an awning. The caravan had paused its movements there Monday following Trump's comments, but Mujica told ABC News their journey would resume once Mexican immigration officials handed out those visas.
"This hasn't dispersed. There's at least a thousand people here, that is for sure," he said. "This is strong still, and it will keep going."