If you had any doubts about the intentions of the migrants in the Honduran caravan you can put them to rest. Mexico continues to make good faith efforts to deal with the flood of humanity in a legal fashion, but the organizers of the caravan have no interest in the law. This week the Mexican government offered the travelers refuge, supplies and the opportunity for permanent residency in two southern states if they applied for asylum. While hundreds of the Hondurans took them up on the offer, thousands more took a vote and decided once again to reject the plan, insisting that they were heading to the United States. (Associated Press)
Several thousand Central American migrants turned down a Mexican offer of benefits if they applied for refugee status and stayed in the country’s two southernmost states, vowing to set out before dawn Saturday to continue their long trek toward the U.S. border.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto announced what he called the “You are at home” plan, offering shelter, medical attention, schooling and jobs to Central Americans in Chiapas and Oaxaca states if they applied, calling it a first step toward permanent refugee status. Authorities said more than 1,700 had already applied for refugee status…
“Thank you!” they yelled as they voted to reject the offer in a show of hands in the town of Arriaga. They then added: “No, we’re heading north!”
This short video from the Associated Press is worth a look just for the quotes from some of the caravan members.
I’d like to take a moment here to offer some well deserved praise to the government of Mexico for the way they’ve stepped up this year and tried to do the right thing. Unlike in years past, Mexico seems to have really gotten the message from Washington and are at least making an effort to bear their responsibilities in these migration situations. While they were unable to significantly shut down the caravan at their southern border, they at least shipped in extra officers and made the attempt. They arrested quite a few and turned others back, but the sheer numbers were too much for them.
As we’re seeing in this story, Mexico is also trying to take on the role of a Safe Third Country Agreement participant, even though we haven’t formalized that deal with them yet. By offering the migrants asylum status and temporary food and lodging while their claims are processed, there’s no reason the vast majority of them couldn’t remain in Chiapas and Oaxaca. It represents a major drain on Mexico’s resources to make such an offer and they should be earning a lot of credit and support from the United States for doing so.
Unfortunately, as I noted at the top, most of the migrants have no interest in accepting the offer. They plan to march on the United States border uninvited. We have no more ability to process that many requests in a short period of time than Mexico does and the travelers have already demonstrated what they plan to do if their demands can’t be immediately accommodated. They jumped one border crossing over from Guatemala to Mexico and they will obviously do it again when they reach the United States.
The caravan has more than 1,000 miles to go before they reach Texas. That gives us some time to come up with a plan to stop what can only honestly be described as an invasion. But that time isn’t unlimited, so the state and federal governments need to be working together and preparing for their arrival.