By Barbara Franz
The big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our ‘Weak Laws’ Border, had better be stopped before it gets there. Cash cow NAFTA is in play, as is foreign aid to Honduras and the countries that allow this to happen. Congress MUST ACT NOW! — President Trump tweet, April 3, 2018.
The President’s caravan reference was to a group of about 1,000 migrants and refugees who are on a month-long trek traveling north.
Most of them originate in Honduras, and they are traveling through southern Mexico. Some will seek asylum in Mexico, others in the U.S.A.
They are being led by the American group Pueblo Sin Frontera (People without Borders), a migration solidarity group that has been organizing such migrations for 15 years.
In her NBC report about the event, Nicole Acevedo explained that the procession, referred to in Spanish as Via Crucis Migrantes (the Migrants’ Way of the Cross), is fashioned after a religious custom called the Stations of the Cross.
Latin American and Latino Catholics celebrate this to mark and “re-enact” the final days of Jesus, from prosecution to his burial in a tomb. This tradition is observed during Holy Week, the final week of Lent, as commemorated by Christians.
Pueblo Sin Frontera organizes the event to draw attention to people fleeing violence in countries such as Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
About 80 percent of those traveling in this year’s caravan are from Honduras; they include 300 minors, ranging from infants to 11 years old; about 20 young people who identify as LGBT; and about 400 women.
In general, traveling in a group is considered much safer than going alone. Last week, the New York Times reported that Mexican authorities began to issue travel and visa documents to these migrants—some of whom received 20 days to transit the country en route to the U.S. border with the stated goal of applying for asylum in the U.S.
Others obtained papers in a first step toward a humanitarian Mexican residency visa for especially vulnerable people, or a start to the application process for asylum in Mexico.
The President’s tweets apparently came after a Buzzfeed story was published on March 31, 2018, with the headline A Huge Caravan of Central Americans Is Headed to the U.S., and No One in Mexico Dares to Stop Them.
The next day, Trump tweeted:
Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!
Trump vented his anger on Twitter for several days, with a series of tweets blaming the Mexican government and Democrats for a “massive inflow of drugs and people” into the U.S.
He claimed people in the caravan intended to take advantage of DACA, a program he himself terminated last summer. Clearly, the travelers cannot take advantage of DACA protections that no longer exist!
(Even before DACA’s termination, it was irrelevant to this situation. It only covered people who arrived in the USA before June 2007 and prior to their 16th birthdays.)
Probably frustrated by his inability to get funding for his border wall, Trump threatened to take tough action against these and other “illegal immigrants,” directing states to put National Guard troops on the southern border.
Under international laws, many of these travelers might flee their countries because of well-founded fears of persecution. It is the responsibility of nations such as the U.S. and Mexico to protect persons seeking asylum and refugee protection.
Undoubtedly, Trump’s rants were “fact-free fearmongering,” as the Washington Post put it.
Indeed, undocumented immigration at the southern border is the lowest it has been since the early 1970s, and has been falling for years thanks to improvements in Mexico’s economy and stronger U.S. border security.
The best measure of undocumented entrees are border arrests, and these have been falling from 700,000 to about 400,000 per year under President Obama, and to 304,000 under Trump.
Trump’s notion of a caravan reaching our unprotected borders is an invented crisis. According to The Week, Trump’s nightmare of a “porous border overrun with drug runners and criminals” simply does not exist.
As a reality check, let me remind readers that there is no invasion at the border. Detentions there are at a 40-year low. There is no mass immigration; the undocumented population has been stable for a decade now.
We do not need a “big beautiful wall” and Mexico is not the enemy. It would be a huge waste of money to send National Guard troops to the border.
Barbara Franz, Ph.D., is a political science professor at Rider University, and a Morristown resident.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed above are the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.