A giant caravan of Central American migrants illegally crossing through Mexico, in the hopes of illegally crossing into the U.S., has ground to a halt as over a thousand migrants begin their fourth day camped out at a Mexican sports arena.
“We’re in limbo,” said one asylum seeker camped outside of the center – surrounded by garbage bags full of trash and rolled up mattresses.
Organizers admit they were taken aback by both the size of this year’s caravan—which has been a periodic ritual since 2010—and the attention it has received. They also admit their original plan of making their way to the U.S. border has likely changed. –Wall St. Journal
“We cannot arrive to the border with 1,000 people. The group is too large, we never had seen this amount of people before,” said organizer Irineo Mujica, adding that previous caravans had about 300 people.
Meanwhile, Mexican foreign minister Luis Videgaray tweeted on Tuesday that the caravan had “disbanded,” despite appearing largely intact on Wednesday – albeit not moving.
Mexican authorities have already deported approximately 400 marchers, while the rest will be given either a 20-day transit visa through Mexico to return home, or a 30-day humanitarian visa for those who want to apply for asylum in Mexico.
Not so fast…
Reports are also coming in that several hundred caravan members boarded “The Beast” train in Central Mexico, while the rest of the caravan forged ahead.
Some in the United States think the notion of Central American refugees seeking asylum in the United States after passing through Mexico is laughable – considering Mexico’s “working” asylum system.
Mark Kirkorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based think tank that favors more immigration restrictions, said that any migrant from Honduran who tries to enter the U.S. from Mexico should forfeit their claim to be seeking asylum. –WSJ
“I’m sorry, but you are not seeking refuge from persecution if you are passing through 1,000 miles of Mexico, a country that has a working asylum system, and trying to reach the U.S.,” Mr. Kirkorian said.
Caravan organizer Irineo Mujica said that around 70% of the immigrants want to stay in Mexico if they receive their papers to stay and work there – and that many have family living in the country.
“What I need is a job to support my family, and if Mexico provides me with papers and work I will stay [in Mexico] with a cousin,” said Walter Romero, 40, who had to shutter his garage business in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula amid the looting and protests of recent months.
Hondurans seeking refuge in the U.S. has grown dramatically over the last decade as political instability and gang violence have escalated. Petitions for asylum from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras grew by 800% between 2010 and 2016 according to the DOJ.
Mexico, meanwhile, has stepped up immigration enforcement along their southern border – apprehending over 5,000 illegal immigrants in February, up from 2,000 and 3,000 per month for most of last year.
Trump steps in
As the caravan made its way north over the past week, President Trump pointed to it as an example of why his border wall needs to be built. Trump also threatened to kill NAFTA and cut off foreign aid to “Honduras and the countries that allow this to happen.”
Trump also said on Tuesday that he would deploy U.S. troops to the southern border to guard against illegal crossings into the country “until we have a wall.”
“Until we can have a wall and proper security, we are going to be guarding our border with the military. That’s a big step,” Trump told reporters at the White House while sitting nearby Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Trump’s comments mark a significant escalation in U.S. border policy, as troops along the frontier with Mexico – not the U.S. border patrol, would be the most aggressive action taken to date by the President who promised voters a giant wall.
The President also closed the door on a DACA deal this week – an Obama-era program designed to protect young immigrants brought here illegally to the United States as children. In a Sunday tweet, Trump railed against “ridiculous liberal (Democratic) laws” like “catch and release”. And with more “dangerous caravans coming” to the US border, “Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!”
So we are left with a stalled out caravan that’s never going to reach the U.S. border, and U.S. troops on their way to guard it until the wall is built. Perhaps Trump should send the organizers gift baskets to thank them for making his case for stronger border security.