The Immigration Quest
Immigration policy has come to the forefront of political conversations worldwide. With people increasingly being displaced by war, famine, and poor employment opportunities, countries have taken differing stances on the situation. These range from open borders policies in Germany and Denmark to restricting immigration, like the border between the Syria and Israel. Recently, there has been a major development on the southern U.S. border regarding the Central American migrant caravan, which encompasses close to 1,700 people from Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
The mass migration was organized by Pueblo Sin Fronteras, a volunteer group which leads displaced peoples from Central America to the U.S. using vehicle convoys as a means of protection as they travel to the U.S. border. The goal of this group is to emphasize the legal method of immigrating to a country through requesting asylum (legal protection for political refugees) at the border. Pueblo Sin Fronteras have been taking migrants to the U.S. border for the past 15 years; however, this year’s caravan was by far the largest seen at “close to 1,700 at one point, but by the time it reached Tijuana (late April), the total was closer to 400” (Dibble 2018). The caravan had primarily been displaced from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador in their attempt to escape escalating violence and political persecution in their home countries. Due to the size of the caravan, media and the current White House administration have been highly critical of the asylum requests, despite the country’s history of granting political refugees safe harbor.
Caravan members have come to see the high media attention as a possible deterrence to their goal of requesting asylum because they fear potential repercussion when they reach the U.S. border. On the contrary, the group’s organizers say the global attention is exactly what they were hoping for. “The idea was never for this group of people to reach the border. It was more to achieve a sensible and clear solution to migrants’ need to leave their countries” (The Associated Press 2018). One of the major concerns that has been brought forward by senators and law enforcement agencies is that some of the migrants may try to illegally enter the country if refused asylum. Pueblo Sin Fronteras have admitted that while the goal is to bring awareness to the plight of displaced peoples, there are some who may attempt to cross the U.S. border illegally. “It’s hard to say, they don’t tell you (they plan to sneak over the border). Some will, but probably not right now” (Agence France-Presse 2018).
Unlike previous administrations who had accepted Pueblo Sin Fronteras caravans, the U.S. attempted to deter the group through the activation of the National Guard, changes in Custom and Border Protection Agency policies, and increasingly threatening rhetoric from citizens, media, and administration. After almost a month of traveling through Mexico, the caravan was greeted at the southern border of the U.S. by thousands of supporters from all around the world. However, some bad publicity arose for the group as pictures of people sitting and climbing on the border fence circulated online. The backlash that followed this caravan has reinforced hardline immigration rhetoric, as some believe the migrants are exploiting U.S. humanitarian policy. The group has been creating caravans for years, but the organizers have admitted that they “were overwhelmed by the size” (Gonzales 2018) especially after Trump pressured Mexico into temporarily halting the caravan in early April.
Upon reaching the border on May 7th, 200 members of the caravan began making cases to the United States Citizen and Immigration Services. Some migrants opted to stay in Mexico, as many did not travel with the necessary paperwork to enter the U.S. Mexico’s National Institute of Migration said, “76 migrants are working legally in Mexico, out of a total of 182 visa requests made. An additional 106 are still being reviewed because they lack necessary information” (Associated Press 2018).
The unfortunate reality of the situation is that many of these migrants continue to face the same violence they sought to escape. In the first week of May, two attacks occurred against the Caritas Tijuana shelter, where many migrants of the caravan members in Mexico are currently residing. Furthermore, on Monday May 7, “a dozen migrants sharing rooms on the top floor (of the shelter) were jolted awake by smoke and flames: someone had barred their door with a mattress, and set it on fire” (Dibble 2018).While many involved in the incident would now be eligible for asylum under current Mexican regulations, there is fear for their safety and treatment. As humanitarian support for plights of migrants increases worldwide, some lawmakers fear that public outcry will create dangerous immigration reforms that would be detrimental to the national security of the U.S., Mexico, and nations around the world. However, the public outcry and the coverage of the dangers migrants have faced may create the border reform needed to help these people while mitigating national security concerns.
Agence France-Presse. 2018. Migrant caravan arrives at US-Mexican border. April 25. Accessed May 22, 2018. http://www.france24.com/en/20180425-migrant-caravan-arrives-us-mexican-border.
Associated Press. 2018. Mexican caravan migrants protest lack of visas in Mexico. May 9. Accessed May 22, 2018. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/05/09/mexican-caravan-immigrants-protest-lack-visas-in-mexico.html.
Dibble, Sandra. 2018. With Central American caravan gone, members who stayed behind struggle to find a path in Mexico. May 9. Accessed May 19, 2018. http://gazette.com/with-central-american-caravan-gone-members-who-stayed-behind-struggle-to-find-a-path-in-mexico/article/feed/563418.
Gonzales, Daniel. 2018. Another migrant caravan is coming, organizers say, despite Trump backlash. May 15. Accessed May 22, 2018. https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/border-issues/2018/05/15/another-migrant-caravan-coming-organizers-say-despite-trump-backlash/596950002/.
The Associated Press. 2018. Migrant caravan targeted by Trump is stuck in Mexican field. April 3. Accessed May 22, 2018. http://www.bristolpress.com/BP-World-Nation/324653/migrant-caravan-targeted-by-trump-is-stuck-in-mexican-field.