Thousands of Central Americans trek to the United States

Thousands of people from Central America undertaking their journey to the United States

By: Savi Raghuraman | News Editor

October 24, 2018

Traducción al español

A migrant caravan of unprecedented size is currently journeying through Southern Mexico, bound for the Mexico-U.S. border. The group of Central Americans first formed in Honduras last week, joined by migrants from Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Mexico along their route. The United Nations estimates that their numbers have grown to over 7,000 in just a week. 

A large proportion of the caravan consists of families with children, and many cite gang violence and poverty as chief reasons for seeking asylum in the United States. Joining a caravan to make the journey is favorable to most migrants over the alternative option, paying a “coyote” thousands of dollars to smuggle them to the border and risking their lives with the predatory gangs that roam the area. Many migrants, seeing safety in numbers, hurriedly left their homes without preparation, not knowing when another opportunity to flee would arise.

A migrant family displays a mix of exhaustion and relief after crossing the border from Guatemala to Mexico. Photo by The Hill.

On Sunday, October 21, the procession passed through the Guatemala-Mexico border with few problems. Other than some efforts to screen migrants at the border and to block some from entering, Mexico continued its traditionally relaxed policy toward migrants. A culture of support has developed around Central American migrants fleeing dangerous circumstances in search of better opportunities. Plus, Mexico is a heavily Catholic country, and the Pope has recently promoted support and hospitality towards refugees around the world. Many locals see it as their moral responsibility to offer travelers food and a place to stay.

President Trump has already taken a very different stance, threatening to send troops to the border and promising that none of these migrants will be granted asylum in the United States. However, it is the legal right of any migrant to request asylum in court, and most of them plan to do so. The many families traveling with the caravan have also raised concern about whether the Trump administration’s policy of family separation at the border will be continued. Despite the public policy put out by the Trump administration, many citizens believe that we should accept the migrants.

“I think we should do whatever we can to help them,” senior Margaux Ranson said. “They’re just trying to escape a dangerous situation and have a better life.”

The caravan has no single organizer, despite the number of rumors claiming otherwise. Right-wing groups have spread conspiracies that wealthy Democrats funded the caravan for their own political gain. In fact, this consideration of the procession as a border crisis is a strategy to bolster the Republican base in the upcoming midterm elections.

“It’s gonna be an election of the caravan,” President Trump told supporters in Montana, ignoring the fact that these migrants, lacking citizenship, cannot vote. The president’s claims of “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners” traveling with the caravan are also unproven and misleading.

The caravan is more potent than we know, and will absolutely influence voters.

“It has potential to be a ‘wedge issue,'”  senior Macy Smith said. “As I prepare to vote, I know the image of the caravan, a mile of immigrants hoping for refuge, has impacted me.”

7,000 migrants seems like a huge amount, but it really isn’t far from the norm; the Mexico-U.S. border saw 50,000 people in the last month. Since the group lacks organization, it will likely fracture in the coming days and approach different points of entry. 

The caravan is still over 1,000 miles away from the border. The migrants have long days of endless trekking in 90 degree temperatures ahead of them, so it will be weeks before they arrive to seek asylum. Only time will tell the fate of the caravan and its political consequences.

1 Comment on Thousands of Central Americans trek to the United States

  1. Many people young and old all over the developing world undertake hazardous and difficult travel for different reasons. Some could be for pilgrimage and others like this caravan are for economics and security. In contrast, travelers in the West travel for pleasure or business and rarely if ever encounter the dangers and the hardships endured by these pilgrims or refugees. The other difference is in the numbers. These refugees or pilgrims are numbered in the thousands while we travel in small family groups or alone here in the US or Europe. How do you feel about children and young adults forgoing school and leaving their home to be in this caravan?

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