You probably already noticed that Trump abandoned his fearful drumbeat of “invasion by caravan – send the troops!” almost the second the midterm elections were over.
His coordinated and openly racist appeals no longer served him, and he’d prefer the public stop thinking about the vile bigotry he just dragged the country through for electoral purposes.
But the “caravan” — or “exodus”, as it is called by the people themselves fleeing the unbearable grip of violence, corruption, and poverty in ravaged Honduran cities like San Pedro Sula — is still there.
They are the same groups of families, children, young people and a diverse assortment of adults who banded together for safety and strength in numbers on an uncertain and potentially perilous journey north through Mexico toward the United States.
In recent days, the first travelers have begun arriving at the border near Tijuana where many of them plan to apply for asylum — based on violence and threats to themselves and family members. Uncertainty reigns. Asylum cases mix in with others of dire economic need or dreams of a better life. All are in limbo.
As debate over the fate of these people continues, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Honduras is a country that has been dominated by the United States for many decades, hosting large US military bases since the 1980s.The unvarnished truth is that, the tragedy of Honduras with its oligarchs and mafias that drive the “exodus” is a uniquely bi-partisan, Made in USA kind of problem. The sooner we recognize this the sooner we can start trying to deal with the underlying issues.
Imagine the caravan as a protest against decades of self dealing policies — Reagan Republicans who used Honduras to launch a dirty war on Nicaragua right through Obama Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton who helped preserve a 2009 military coup that was condemned by virtually every other country in the hemisphere.
It is time to look in the mirror. We almost never hear about the reality of the US military footprint in Honduras or how what is wrong in Honduras is living testament to the stupidity of the drug war and the suppression of genuine democracy that the US has promoted there for generations. We can and must change that.
2. Mexico can play a big role in better protecting and aiding migrants in its territory.
People from Central America have been traveling across Mexico towards the United States for decades.
During the Central American wars of the 1980s, hundreds of thousands of Salvadoran and Guatemalans fled to Mexico. Mexico spoke in favor of refugees, but many found little support or safety. Today’s problems are worse.
The escalation of the drug war within Mexico made the migrant journey more perilous as criminal organizations monopolize migration routes and integrate human trafficking into their business model. In the last decade many tens of thousands have disappeared and mass graves dot the northern landscape.
Fear is now the main reason people are organizing to travel en masse.
Next week, a new government takes power in Mexico and hopes are high for better immigration strategies and comprehensive attention to the complexities of Central American travel (not just the current, high profile exodus).
He doesn’t want to draw immediate fire from Trump nor give domestic critics fodder to say he is prioritizing Hondurans over Mexicans. But moves to end the drug war, rein-in domestic mafias, and increase economic opportunities can and must go hand-in-hand with a rapid build up of capacity in Mexico to handle the claims and humanitarian needs of migrants and refugees from Central America.
Join us for a conversation with leading voices on Mexico-US relations (John Ackerman, Marco Castillo, and Janice Gallagher), who will be discussing how the new administration that will take office Dec 1st can reshape relations between our countries, including trade, migration, human rights and security.
3. Attacking the caravan is a fig leaf for Trump’s racist assault on basic human rights. We all need to push back.
Global Exchange is helping connect and coordinate faith and human rights organizations and allied networks on both sides of the US Mexico border to provide up-to-the-minute information and help channel critical resources like dozens of doctors, lawyers, and other trained volunteers and nearly 50 thousand dollars in donations — to where they are most urgently needed.
For most of us, the idea of asylum is simple. Protecting people who face imminent threats is a moral obligation. Virtually all countries, especially democratic ones have legal and constitutional guidelines for that. This core value that cannot be abandoned for the sake of political expediency. It is in our interest as a democratic people to defend it. It is part of who we are.