In mid October, people in San Pedro Sula, Honduras congregated with the intention of migrating away from their home city due to the poverty and violence that is prevalent there. They have traveled from central Honduras, north through Guatemala, and are currently at the southern end of Mexico.
The Mexican government is screening and processing those seeking asylum there, but they are not directly impeding the caravan itself. Which, considering how the Mexican government has historically treated central Americans, is an improvement. The caravan is expected to continue north towards the U.S.-Mexico border.
President Trump has labeled the caravan a threat to this country. This is in-line with rhetoric he’s used in the past. Earlier this year, another large group of asylum-seekers that originated in Central America headed north. Trump was joyous when that group stalled out in Mexico and never fully crossed into the U.S.
It’s important to understand why Central America, especially Honduras, is in the state that it’s currently in. The United States has on multiple occasions meddled and transgressed the sovereignty of these Latin American countries. The U.S. has supported and funded dictators while undermining democratic elections. President Nixon’s “war on drugs” also pushed drug cartels from Colombia into Central America.
The people fleeing Honduras are seeking asylum. Some have found it in Mexico, while others are aiming for the United States. They are traveling through sweltering heat and using makeshift rafts to cross rivers with the hope that it will pay off once they get to the U.S. border.
The Refugee Act passed during the Carter administration allows immigrants to request asylum whether they entered the country legally or not. Of course, Trump doesn’t want them to enter at all. He stated he would deploy 15,000 troops to the U.S-Mexico border in Texas, Arizona, and California. His demonization of the migrants helps rally his base behind his idea of a border wall.
The president is only further endangering the lives of those making this trip. If the incentive to cross through normal entry points is removed, people will be more inclined to take the risk and cross through the dangerous and life-threatening desert.
Trump’s threat to add more troops and to deny entry to asylum-seekers is unsurprising. The more alarming statement he has made is about his intention to deny birthright citizenship to those born in the U.S. to undocumented parents.
The specifics of this aren’t clear, but U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham has offered his support for the idea. It’s humorous that Republicans, who clamor all the time about the original intent of the Constitution, will reinterpret their sacred document when it pushes their xenophobic agenda.
Odds are that an executive order will not be able to temporarily halt the 14th amendment. But the Trump Admin- istration could draft another ban, similar to the Muslim Travel Ban, to prevent Central Americans from entering the country to request asylum. The Pentagon has announced that 5,200 troops were sent to the border, with an additional 2,000 planned. Not quite the 15,000 he threatened, but nonetheless an unsettling number.
The United States needs to acknowledge that this country has caused a lot of the turmoil that currently plagues Central America. Sending troops and building walls only further tarnishes the image of the U.S.
The worst part about this is that it won’t matter to the general public in a month or so. Just like the migrant group from earlier this year, these issues will fade from the collective memory of society with each new issue that draws a callous response from the President.
Still, though, that should be more motivated to actually do something about it. People should not grow complacent during his presidency, regardless of the results of the midterms. Nor should they be complacent during any future presidency, Republican or not.