Migrants stranded in Mexico cling on to hopes of reaching U.S. border

By Andres Martinez Casares and Carlos Carrillo

TAPACHULA, Mexico (Reuters) - Guatemalan migrant Wilfredo Gomez said on Saturday he had been asking God to make him "invisible" as Mexican security forces started rounding up and detaining other U.S.-bound Central Americans who had illegally crossed into the country.

Mexican security forces started taking a much tougher approach to Central American migrants earlier this week after hundreds entered the country illegally from Guatemala in an attempt to reach the U.S.-Mexican border.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is under intense pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to stop the number of migrants but his handling of the situation near the southern border has draw criticism.

Critics accused Lopez Obrador of doing Trump's bidding after essentially erecting a "wall" of security forces that resulted in chaos. Gomez was one of the many Central American migrants who got caught up in the scramble earlier this week.

When Mexican authorities started rounding up and detaining others, Gomez said he prayed and threw away his backpack in an attempt to pass as Mexican. "I even told them good afternoon," Gomez said. "God covered me, he made me invisible to them."

Reuters was unable to determine how many of the migrants who had crossed into Mexico were still in the area. Even as chances of succeeding looked increasingly slim, many were clinging to hopes they would eventually reach the United States.

Gomez said he had been in Tapachula for two days, roaming the streets for food, sleeping alternately in the park, at the market or on the street. Mostly, he said, he had been contemplating how to reach the United States or Canada.

Though for now, with no money left, Gomez is staying put at the local migrant shelter. "I can't stand the cold, the hunger and all that," the 42-year-old said. "Here, at least I've got a place to sleep."

(Reporting by Andres Martinez Casares and Carlos Carrillo in Tapachula; Writing by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Sandra Maler)