By Sophie Mulcahy
“To those in the Caravan, turnaround, we are not letting people into the United States illegally. Go back to your Country and if you want, apply for citizenship like millions of others are doing!” This was tweeted by President Trump on October 25 addressing the migrants traveling towards the U.S. border. Currently, a caravan of migrants has fled their homeland, mostly Hondurans, in hopes of a better life. Due to the poor economic, political and crime-related conditions the country of Honduras is facing, a caravan of around 120 migrants first left Honduras on October 12 and has since traveled through Guatemala and reached the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. This is still 1,000 miles away from the nearest U.S.-Mexico border entry in McAllen, Texas.
Why are these refugees leaving? About sixty percent of Hondurans live in poverty. Migrants made the decision to leave, assessing that the danger of leaving was outstripped by the dangers of gang violence and extreme poverty. Traveling together in a caravan was the best decision regarding safety, avoiding traffickers and bandits along the journey. With an estimated half of the caravan being women and children, safety is very important to them.
Hondurans are frustrated with the lack of political interference on poverty and gang violence in their country. They are even more enraged by the recent re-election of President Juan Orlando Hernandez. Citizens of Honduras are claiming the election results were fraudulent and corrupted. They also believe the United States is responsible for the election results because the United States has shown support for the conservative president, Juan Hernandez. Hondurans demanded the resignation of Hernandez, claiming he is holding presidency illegally. However, the United States recognized the re-election, further angering Hondurans. Refugees fleeing are determined to make it to the United States border.
While traveling through El Salvador and Guatemala, the caravan gained additional migrants and the group, estimated at least 3,500, is now continuing to travel northward through Mexico. The Mexican government has reported at least 1,700 migrants who have applied for asylum or refugee status and an estimated 200 are being offered aid upon choosing to voluntarily return home. Along the way, the migrants have received aid from local residents, church groups and municipal officials in the towns where the caravan stops. Also volunteers with the bi-national group “Pueblo Sin Fronteras” have stepped in to help coordinate the caravan once the migrants crossed into Mexico from Guatemala.
What happens to the migrants who reach their goal destination of the United States? Many of the migrants say they intend to apply for asylum when they get to the U.S. however, it is unclear what the outcomes will be upon arrival. The Pentagon has thus taken action and will deploy at least 5,200 active-duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in efforts to prevent the migrants from illegally entering the country. These troops are joining the already 2,100 national guard troops occupying the border, which was an order enacted by President Trump earlier this year. The troops will not conduct law enforcement activities, but some will be armed as they provide support to Border Patrol agents along the border.
This caravan is stirring up the on-going immigration debate and as the migrants near the border, the U.S. will have to make important decisions regarding their plan of action and how troops will interact with the refugees. Whatever the outcome will be, American history will be impacted. The country that has been looked at as the “melting pot” and “land of opportunity” for years may be shifting in a different direction.