Written by By Ellie Mertz, CNN
Trailers at a Veracruz border crossing in Mexico were forced to disgorge 600 migrants allegedly “packed to the brim” on Thursday, police said.
Police fired tear gas at the smugglers and stopped them in Cancun after the migrants entered Mexico from Guatemala and Hondurans and Panamanians attempted to cross the border illegally.
Seven people were arrested by the Mexican government and five migrants were hospitalized with smoke inhalation, state Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said. Another 51 people were taken into custody, according to Attorney General Rodolfo Torre Cantu.
Preliminary reports show that migrants entered Mexico from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, Torre Cantu said. Two groups entered illegally.
“The people who are being rescued don’t know how to speak Spanish,” Mexican Border Patrol Public Affairs Chief Jennifer Lawrence said.
Honduran Minister of Public Security Roberto Robaina said on Twitter that he has a report the migrants came from that country. Robaina said smugglers paid people in the countries a “heavy sum to come to the northern side of Mexico.”
Footage showed a convoy of dozens of vehicles being pulled off a roadway on the Veracruz-Tuberana highway before they were set alight.
Photos also showed migrants in trucks and police crossing into Mexico on motorcycles, carrying rifles.
The State Department issued a statement saying the migrants were spotted walking towards the border at Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, about 1 p.m. local time.
“U.S. authorities are working closely with Mexican authorities to address this humanitarian situation and ensure the safety of all involved, and to support the humane resolution of the situation, particularly the welfare of children,” the State Department said.
After officials intercepted migrants in the early afternoon, Guatemalan officials requested that Central American officials in Ciudad Victoria assist them with providing treatment and shelter, Robaina said.
“We requested refuge as we receive other migrants, after they crossed the border without authorization.”
Mexico has been working for months to “prioritize migration” and ensure that migrants have a safe and legal passage to the United States, a federal official told CNN.
U.S. President Donald Trump started pushing a border wall in his campaign in 2016 and repeated his desire to construct a barrier between the United States and Mexico several times during his inauguration speech on January 20.