Migrant Caravan

Gavin Kuncl, Writer

Months ago, a migrant caravan originating from Honduras has begun heading towards the United States southern border.

The number of migrants in the caravan has steadily increased from 3000 to 4000 to 7000 to 8000 as of Nov 5. The caravan has passed from Honduras, through Guatemala, and eventually into Mexico. Even though the current caravan has not reached its destination yet, a second caravan has been forming at the Honduran border.

In response to the first caravan, President Trump threatened to remove US aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador in addition to closing the southern US border. Mexican officials stated that anyone who entered Mexico illegally would be processed and returned to their country of origin. Trump also warned over Twitter that, “anybody entering the United States illegally will be arrested and detained”.

On Oct 9, on a bridge at the Guatemalan- Mexican border, a clash occurred between the caravan and Mexican riot control officers. After pushing over a steel fence and grouping up in front of the police officers, the Mexican authorities retaliated with tear gas, pepper spray, and smoke bombs. The caravan responded by throwing rocks. Eventually, authorities relented and allowed the caravan to pass through, stepping back on the threat the Mexican officials made.

Trump has stayed true to his word, tweeting “Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S. We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them.”

President Trump doubled down on his threat to send troops, and as of Oct 31, a total of 5200 troops with attached vehicles to the border along Arizona, California and Texas. The president added that the number of deployed troops could be as high as 15000. The troops have begun to set up fortifications of chain- link fencing topped with razor wire in long strands. Border patrol agents have expressed relief from the number of troops being sent. Chris Cabrera, border patrol agent and spokesman from the National Border Patrol Council said that agents have needed help “for some time.”  Congressmember-Elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “What if instead of sending 5k troops to the border, we had sent 5k caseworkers to review + process visa applications? In addition to averting moral crisis, it also would‘ve saved enormous amt of resources. But we don’t talk about the financial recklessness of GOP admins, do we?”

On Friday, the governor of the Mexican state of Veracruz, Miguel Angel Yunes, said that his government would provide 100 buses to transport the migrants to Mexico City or “any place that want[s]” as early as Saturday. Hours later, he took back the offer, saying migrants should not head to Mexico City because of water maintenance that is expected to leave millions without water for several days. Despite this, nearly 500 have been given temporary shelter in a sports stadium in Mexico City.

As of Nov 5, around 4000 members of the caravan are approaching the so-called “route of death” in Veracruz, Mexico. The “route of death” earned its name from the mass disappearances of migrants that travel through it.

Tijuana, Mexico, a border city, has received upwards of 5000 migrants. A number that may swell to 10000 in the coming months. Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum asked for international groups like the United Nations for more aid, calling the situation a humanitarian crisis. Gastelum claimed that the Mexican Federal government was not helping the city deal with the influx of migrants. It was estimated that the Tijuana municipal government spent nearly $27000 a day to house and care for the migrants. Job fairs have been launched and migrants have been urged to apply for humanitarian visas. Gastelum has also voiced concern for the number of migrants heading to the border through Tijuana, calling the arrivals “bums”, and questioning if a referendum was needed to determine whether or not the migrants could stay. “Human rights should be reserved for righteous humans,” said Gastelum. Tijuana has been divided over the issue, with some encouraging violence and attacking the migrants, while others offer food, shelter, and showers.

As of Nov 25, a group of around 500 migrants crowded the now close port of entry, with some throwing projectiles at agents, striking several of them. The agents responded with tear gas and pepper spray into the crowd that included women and small children. The entryways were closed for a few hours, before being reopened the morning Nov 26. Mexico says it will deport those who rushed the border.

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