A better solution for the Honduran caravan (which reached Mexico’s southern border on Friday) is going to be required and the President is running out of time. The reports coming out regarding the horde of migrants over the past 48 hours has been nothing short of frenetic. We’ve seen headlines claiming that Mexico had stopped them and the caravan was turning back. Other reports indicated that the migrants were overwhelming the border forces and swarming into Mexico. The mainstream media, both American and international, has embedded with the travelers and largely taken their side.
Once the initial clashes with police at the Mexican border settled down a bit, however, it became clear that there were elements of truth to both stories. Hundreds of migrants have indeed turned around and headed back home. Others have been allowed through in groups by the Mexican border officials and are applying for asylum or other forms of legal residence. But a significant number, estimated to be in the range of 2,000, crossed the border illegally and have reformed the somewhat slimmed down caravan and are vowing to continue on toward the United States. (Associated Press)
Despite Mexican efforts to stop them at the border, about 2,000 Central American migrants swam or rafted across a river separating that country from Guatemala, re-formed their mass caravan in Mexico and vowed to resume their journey toward the United States.
The migrants, who said they gave up trying to enter Mexico legally because the asylum application process was too slow, gathered on Saturday at a park in the border city of Ciudad Hidalgo. They voted by a show of hands to continue north en masse, then marched to the bridge crossing the Suchiate River and urged those still on it to come join them.
“We are going to reach the United States,” said Erasmo Duarte, a migrant from Danli, Honduras, despite warnings to turn back this week from U.S. President Donald Trump, who has sought to make the caravan and border security in general into a campaign issue a little over two weeks before midterm elections.
The next questions are whether or not the army of migrants will make it all the way to our border and what our response will be if they do. As to the first issue, Mexico has seemed very eager to cooperate with President Trump’s requests, doing their best to seal the southern border and process the applicants in an orderly fashion. The Mexican government is at least trying to honor the principle of the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA). They’re attempting to turn back those who don’t qualify for asylum or temporary resident status and process the requests of those who do.
But what will Mexico do about the ones who have crossed over, reformed the caravan and are now heading north again? They will have plenty of opportunities to stop them along the way. If they do so, then they will doubtless win big points with the White House. Also, not having them all concentrated at the Guatemalan border will likely make it easier to find shelter for them while their cases are processed. But if Mexico throws up their hands and allows them to make it all the way through their country or simply fails to intercept a significant portion of them it will become our problem.
Unfortunately, the majority of the members of the caravan have now demonstrated that they don’t plan to have any respect for any rules or agreements. AP reporters interviewed a number of them who explained that they had “already waited too long” and were crossing the river into Mexico illegally. Even understanding the difficulty these migrants are facing while waiting at the border, if that’s the prevailing logic among those who voted to cross the river illegally, what do you suppose they will do if they reach the American border? We don’t have much more than Mexico in terms of the resources required to be able to legally process that many requests at once. If they are once again told they will need to wait on the Mexican side for days or even weeks while their cases are handled, we’ve already seen what their answer will be.
President Trump’s threat to send in the military and close the border sounded overly optimistic. If it were that easy, why wouldn’t we have done it already? But with the migrants traveling in such a tight mass, we at least have a small advantage. If they all arrive at the border in a single group, we might actually be able to secure that specific section. But for how long? If the caravan participants then choose to scatter to the east and west, we’ll be right back where we started. It seems to me that the burden has to fall on Mexico at this point. They have the ability to shut this down and if they’re willing to do so the White House should consider offering them some sort of support in terms of funding and supplies to help them honor their obligations.