Migrants from Central America have banded together on their quest for a better life through what has become known as the “migrant caravan,” that began in Honduras on October 12. The numbers of migrants have fluctuated, but it has been consistently in the thousands. Some have had to veer off as nervousness and exhaustion contribute to anxiety and paranoia, as well as physical ailments: sickness, dehydration, sore throats, respiratory infections, blistered feet, pink eye, etc. News of the caravan spread throughout Central America through Facebook and local tv stations, appealing to men, women, families and the elderly. Most are from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and now also Mexico. People joined the caravan to flee poverty, drug and domestic violence, and political unrest. Travelling as such a big group offers a form of protection against bandits who target migrants for kidnap, extortion and/or rape, while also saving many migrants from having to pay people smugglers to get through borders.
Upon reaching Mexico, some people have provided water, food, clothes and even ice cream to passing migrants. In the town of Huixtla, a restaurant owner served 200 plates of beans, rice and tortillas to the group. The journey is through essentially 90 degree weather and occasional heavy rains – so access to food and water are of the essence. One woman from Honduras felt that crossing the border into the US (legally or illegally) even if it resulted in long detention would be better than the Honduran misery she left behind, and expressed that “we prefer to die on the American border than die in Honduras from hunger.” Though, for others the journey has been very taxing. Of the ever-growing group, 1,699 people (Hondurans, Guatemalans, Nicaraguans, Salvadorians) have applied for asylum in Mexico and 495 Hondurans have asked to be repatriated thus far, as the journey is very taxing.
Mexico has now put in place checkpoints throughout the country because of the caravan, which forces them to take longer and more dangerous routes. Some have considered going towards California rather than Texas in hopes they will be more receiving. Mexican president, Enrique Pena Nieto launched a program called “You Are Home” that promises shelter, medical attention, schooling and jobs to Central Americans who agree to stay instead of trekking on to the US. Most migrants rejected the plan, but would re-evaluate once they got to Mexico City as many of the members of the group have said once they make it to the border they are likely to turn themselves to the authorities and claim asylum (though, a few young men have said they will cross illegally if needed). But some (pregnant women, children and the elderly) did agree and were issued ID’s that allow them to stay and work in Mexico.
President Trump has said he will not let caravan members in, but the US is legally obligated to consider asylum seekers. If they pass the first step of asylum process, called the “credible fear interview” they will be held in detention or released in the US and face immigration court in months or years – or else they will be deported. He has also stated that as of now, foreign aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador will be severely reduced or stopped altogether. Earlier this year, Trump had spread out 2,100 National Guard Soldiers along the US Southern border, and plans to send 800 troops to the US-Mexico border to confront the caravan.
To further invoke xenophobia to the Republican voting base, Trump has insinuated that the caravan members were a part of gangs and that “middle easterners” were included in the mix. Not only is this false, but it appeals to the American voters who have channeled a deep hatred for Muslims and the Middle East as a reason to condemn immigration to the United States, just before the Midterm Elections. In addition, the Honduran president, Juan Orlando Hernandez told Mike Pence that the Venezuelan government was financing the journey, but no proof or indications have been made on that claim. In continuing to provide false allegations and rumors surrounding the caravan, the American public receive a very filtered view of the group and in turn respond with fear, rejection and ultimately hostility. The American public has been trained to view “outsiders” as intrusive, exploitative, and malicious over the course of 2018 through Trump’s aggressive and ruthless immigration crackdowns and policies. Decades of gang violence, corruption, destitution and lack of basic civil freedoms are most prominent in parts of the world that suffer from post-colonialism and/or outside governance, even if minutely. Due to corruption, inefficient distribution of foreign aid (or lack of appropriate foreign aid) and wealth and improper use of resources, Central America’s poorest citizens are forced to leave their homeland to seek economic stability and escape oppression.
- The ACLU: a non-profit with a longstanding commitment to preserving and protecting the individual rights and liberties the Constitution and US laws guarantee all its citizens. You can also donate monthly to counter Trump’s attacks on people’s rights. Recently, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the separation of families at the border.
- The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.
- FWD.us: an organization that aims to promote the tech community to support policies that keep the American Dream alive. They specifically and currently focus on immigration reform.
This Brief was authored by Kathryn Baron. For inquiries, suggestions or comments email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Drew Farwell