Participants in the caravan crossing the Tijuana River canal bed after being blocked from marching peacefully by Mexican federal police. Photo by Amelia Frank-Vitale.

“What do you think, you’re a gringa, will he let us in?”

“Honestly?” I reply, “I don’t think so, not as a group. My country isn’t very, um, friendly to migrants right now.”

“Yeah yeah, I know.” He shakes his head and then looks at me. “But you know what? Here’s the thing. For us, for Hondurans, now, life isn’t worth anything. We’ll get in. Sure, they’ll kill some of us. But we’ll get in.”

I had this conversation with César, an older Honduran, inside Benito Juarez, the small Tijuana baseball field turned temporary migrant encampment, a week or so after the largest migrant caravan in Mexican history had arrived. Just across the highway, a wall divides Mexico from California.

When a few hundred people gathered at the bus terminal in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on October 13, the idea was that, together, they could make it across Mexico without being deported by Mexican immigration officials or targeted for assault, kidnapping, and extortion. Caravans had gotten through in the past. As news of the plan spread, those few hundred swelled to more than seven thousand. Some scrambled to join before the caravan left Honduras; others, already in Mexico, waited for it where they were. It seemed the safest, surest way to get to the northern border.