Migrant Caravan Heads Towards US as Refugees Seek Asylum
On March 25, a group of Central American men, women, and children began marching towards the U.S.- Mexico border. The 2,000 mile march, which started in Tapachula, Honduras has picked up more than 1,500 migrants along the way.
The majority are from the Northern Triangle, a region of Central America that includes Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Many of these countries were rocked by bloody civil wars in the 1980s, which left power vacuums and a legacy of violence.
Since 2010, Pueblo Sins Fronteras has helped thousands of migrants cross over into the U.S. The organization has also orchestrated many large scale marches in order to spread awareness of the many hardships that migrants face along the way.
The journey individuals typically take from Central America to the U.S. is extremely perilous. Gangs and cartels have been known to assault vulnerable migrants and it is common to find police authorities trying to exploit and extort them for money.
According to Rodrigo Abeja, one of the lead organizers of the march, the large size of the caravan is important because it makes “immigration authorities and criminals pause before trying to stop them.”
One marcher, 29-year-old Mateo Juan told BuzzFeed News that the caravan was his third attempt at getting into the U.S.
“Going alone is risky. You're risking an accident, getting jumped by robbers, and even your life,” Juan said. “All of that, and then you don't get to the United States. The caravan is slower but you know you're going to get there safely.”
This year, the members of the caravan are disproportionately Honduran according to Abeja.
In recent months, Honduras has been plagued by high levels of violence and political upheaval following the re-election of U.S. backed President Juan Orlando Hernández. One participant of the caravan was Maria Elena Colindres Ortega, who until January was a member of Congress in Honduras.
“We've had to live through a fraudulent electoral process," Ortega said in an interview with the New York Times. “We’re suffering a progressive militarization and lack of institutions, and... they're criminalizing those who protested.” Ortega opposed the ruling party and claims that she “spiraled into debt after serving without pay for the final 18-months of her four-year-term.”
In the U.S. the caravan has raised alarm. On April 3, President Trump tweeted: “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!”
"We don’t know what President Trump is talking about when he says that Honduras doesn’t do anything” to stop illegal immigration, presidential spokesman Ebal Diaz said on a local TV program.
Trump has since signed a memorandum deploying thousands of National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. In the memorandum Trump expresses that "the security of the United States is imperiled by a drastic surge of illegal activity on the southern border."
After Trump’s announcement, Mexico’s Senate issued a rebuke “urging its government to end cooperation with the US on migration and security.”Laura Rojas, head of the Senate’s foreign relations committee said in support of the motion: “[Trump’s] conduct has been permanently and systematically, not only disrespectful, but insulting, based on prejudices and misinformation and making frequent use of threats and blackmail.”
After news broke that the caravan would end in Mexico City rather than at the U.S. border as originally planned, Trump reversed his position on Mexico tweeting: “The Caravan is largely broken up thanks to the strong immigration laws of Mexico and their willingness to use them so as not to cause a giant scene at our Border. Because of the Trump Administration's actions, Border crossings are at a still UNACCEPTABLE 46 year low. Stop drugs!”
While many marchers have already been rejected asylum, some migrants insist they will continue the journey, despite the obvious dangers.