Mexico "dissolves" migrant caravan with travel documents

AP Photo/Marco Ugarte

One week ago, what was described as potentially being the largest illegal migrant caravan ever seen heading for the southern border of the United States set out to move through Mexico. There were anywhere from 6,000 to 11,000 migrants involved, depending on who you asked. This was taking place at a rather awkward time, considering that Joe Biden was hosting the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles and Mexico was boycotting it. Still, the Mexican government appeared to be at least trying to do something about it. They initially said that they would be issuing visas to interested migrants, allowing them to seek jobs and resettle in Mexico, but they worried that they only had roughly 1,000 such visas available.

But this weekend, under a headline that made it seem as if the situation had changed entirely, we were informed that the caravan had almost miraculously “dissolved.” The caravan was described as having “broken up.” And all of this activity was credited to Mexico having issued thousands of “temporary documents” to the migrants. But as we’ll see in a moment, that doesn’t mean that the caravan has actually been stopped at all. (NPR)

Mexico’s migration agency has issued nearly 7,000 temporary documents and transit visas over the last few days to members of a migrant caravan which by Saturday had broken up in southern Mexico.

Hundreds of people were heading north in buses while others were spread out over various towns north of Tapachula, near the Guatemalan border, resting or waiting to receive money from relatives to continue their trip to the United States…

The migrant caravan left from Tapachula on Monday. But it had split up by Thursday, when regional leaders were meeting in Los Angeles at the Summit of the Americas to talk about migration and other issues.

Here’s a short ABC News report describing how this all played out.

If the massive caravan had been “broken up” or “dissolved,” you would probably assume that most of the migrants had been either sent back to their home countries or were being processed to stay in Mexico, right? But the more you read into the details, the more you realize that the situation wasn’t anything like that. First of all, the roughly 7,000 migrants were not all given visas. They were given vaguely described “travel documents.”

The documents reviewed by reporters gave the holders a period of one month or more to “leave the country” or begin the process of obtaining long-term residency in Mexico. There was no specification as to how they should leave the country or which direction they would need to be heading. Interviews with many migrants suggested that the majority of them wanted to use the documents to continue traveling to the United States. Attempts to book bus trips to the American border area were mostly futile because the available seats were almost entirely sold out.

In other words, Mexico didn’t halt or turn around this caravan at all. What they did was grant the entire army of migrants temporary legal status so they could continue their journey northward without being disturbed by authorities. And from the sound of the current reporting, the vast majority of them plan to do exactly that.

During the Summit of the Americas, Joe Biden made a big show of saying that the participating countries had created “a roadmap for countries to host large numbers of migrants and refugees.” But it doesn’t sound to me as if Mexico is planning to “host” many migrants. What they’re doing is creating a legal framework for the largest caravan in history to show up at the border after all. They just won’t be doing it all in one mass. But that doesn’t really matter. Our resources at the border will still be overwhelmed, even if it takes a few more days to reach the breaking point.