By Jose Torres and Lizbeth Diaz
HUIXTLA, Mexico (Reuters) - Hundreds of migrants from Central America and the Caribbean trekked across Mexico on Wednesday, the latest in a series of caravans that have sought to reach the U.S. border in recent months.
The United States has registered record levels of migration this year, with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents apprehending or expelling more than 1.7 million migrants over the last 12 months.
The majority of the latest caravan members were families with young children, according to a Reuters witness, who estimated that about 2,000 migrants were gathered on Tuesday in Huixtla in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas to rest and receive medical attention before resuming their journey north.
Among them was Arleth Chavez from Guatemala, who had walked with the caravan for about 28 miles (45 km) since it departed the southern city of Tapachula over the weekend.
"My feet are burning and in pain from the blisters," said Chavez. "I'll make it as far as God permits."
Migrants have denounced the lengthy asylum process in Tapachula, located near Mexico's southern border with Guatemala, and thousands have departed the city in a series of caravans this year, including many families from Haiti.
Some members of the most recent caravan aim to reach Mexico City, where they hope the asylum process might be faster, while others aim to press on to the U.S. border.
The U.S. government has put pressure on Mexico to contain migrants before reaching the U.S. border.
Last week, Mexico's conference of Catholic bishops, which operates about a hundred shelters across Mexico, urged the country's authorities to end militarized immigration enforcement efforts that, the group said, has caused an increase in human rights violations against transiting migrants.
The caravan's slow movement across Mexico comes as U.S. President Joe Biden has been facing increasing criticism from Republicans over the current high levels of migration, which comes amid widespread violence and growing hunger in Central America and parts of the Caribbean.
On Tuesday, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell blasted Biden for the "record-shattering" number of unlawful migrants detained along the U.S.-Mexico border over the past year, laying blame on what he described as an "intentionally unsecure border."
(Reporting by Jose Torres and Daniel Becerril in Tapachula; Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Writing by Laura Gottesdiener; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)