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A view from a migrant caravan where thousands had hoped to make it to the U.S.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Cities along the border are experiencing a surge of migrants crossing into the U.S. from Mexico. In fact, border crossings have hit record numbers this season.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

That's why Republican members of Congress toured the southern border this week, calling on President Biden to crack down on the flow of migrants. A similar dynamic is playing out in Mexico, where authorities have broken up a migrant caravan in their southern border.

FADEL: NPR's Eyder Peralta has been traveling with the caravan, and he joins us now from the road. Hi, Eyder.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: Good morning. So what have you been seeing and hearing as you make this journey?

PERALTA: Well, I heard a lot of hope, and then I heard a lot of that hope turn into agony. This big caravan left from Tapachula, which is a city near the Guatemalan border, on Christmas Eve. Some of the migrants had spent months in southern Mexico, hoping that authorities would give them permits to move through the country. They were frustrated, so a good 5,000 of them started walking north to pressure the government. And Tuesday it looked like the government had caved. The government started sending a bunch of buses over and told them, we'll take you to a nearby town and process you, so get on the buses. But it wasn't long before the migrants found out that immigration officials were lying about where they were sending them, and authorities also started separating families, so the migrants started trying to get off the buses, and it was chaos. Let's listen to Gabriela Fernandez Rivero, who was separated from her boyfriend.

GABRIELA FERNANDEZ RIVERO: (Through interpreter) We have no idea where they're taking us. We have no idea what they're going to do. They don't give us any answers.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: That man at the end is shouting, they're separating kids. He was angry. He was calling immigration authorities killers.

FADEL: Do we know what ultimately happened to those people?

PERALTA: I mean, this caravan of migrants has been a headache for the president of Mexico. He said President Biden called him to tell him that he was worried about how many migrants were crossing the U.S. border. And Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he had taken care of it. And now what was a very visible migrant caravan is no more. That woman and a good 2 or 3,000 migrants were put on buses, and they ended up in a bunch of little towns across southern Mexico. We managed to track down a group that was left in a tiny town near Tuxtla, and I found Maria Isabel Tovar, who was desperately looking for her son. He had just turned 18, and she says the bus that they were on made a sudden stop, and authorities told her son to get off, and they told her to stay on. Let's listen.

MARIA ISABEL TOVAR: (Speaking Spanish, crying).

PERALTA: And she's been traveling for months from Venezuela. It's been so hard, she says - traveled through so many countries, and just to lose my son this way. I don't know, she keeps repeating. I don't know.

FADEL: I mean, is this normal to move migrants, separate them this way?

PERALTA: It is. And it gives you a glimpse at Mexican immigration policy. What authorities are doing is trying to make it harder and harder for migrants to reach the border within the U.S. And migrants rights advocates here say that the U.S. has actually managed to build a wall on its southern border, and they say that that wall is Mexico.

FADEL: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta reporting from Tuxtla in southern Mexico. Thank you, Eyder.

PERALTA: Thank you, Leila.

(SOUNDBITE OF MY EDUCATION'S "COORDINATES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.