Thousands of people fleeing dangerous conditions and unemployment in Central America in a caravan have become the latest group to be weaponized by Republicans in the political war escalating ahead of the midterm elections on Tuesday.
Estimates for the number of migrants making the journey by bus, caravan and foot — mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — vary widely, although a press briefing from the United States Department of Defense on Oct. 29 suggested roughly 3,500 people in the first wave and an additional 3,000 in the second group.
The first group of migrants in the caravan arrived at Mexico City a few days ago. President Donald Trump recently deployed over 5,200 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to stop the group’s entry. The troops have since put up barbed wire, which Trump called “beautiful” at a rally in Montana this weekend.
Marco Castillo, a speaker at an event entitled “Why Do People Migrate?” on Monday evening hosted by the New Sanctuary Coalition, said the caravan is just the latest consequence of fragmented immigration policy.
“Right now you are seeing the consequences of more than 20 years of a broken immigration system,” Castillo said.
Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign recently sponsored a racist ad that smeared immigrants, focusing largely on Luis Bracamontes, an immigrant who killed two police officers near Sacramento in 2014. Facebook, NBC and Fox News have since stopped running the ad.
Immigration policy first took a hit in 2009 when a military coup in Honduras ousted the country’s populist president, Manuel Zelaya, interrupting the flow of progressive leadership on the rise in the region.
Castillo believes President Trump’s racist rhetoric toward the caravan has stirred up a hateful perspective on individuals migrating across the U.S. border.
“We need to fight the narrative that this is a threat to our country,” Castillo said. “The numbers will keep growing and people will get desperate. Bringing in the military is not the way to share the responsibility.”
To be granted asylum, migrants must pass the “credible fear” test, among other things, by showing they would be in danger if they returned home. With former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions raising the burden of proof in June, many of the migrants could face a steep roadblock in the application process.
The U.S. has received an abundance of criticism for their recent foreign policy in Central America. University of Toronto criminology chair Audrey Macklin, for example, is now saying the U.S. is not a safe place for migrants to seek asylum.
Obstacles preventing these people from migrating show no signs of stopping, with the Mexican government working to slow down the caravans’ journey. In Union Square Park on Saturday, groups rallied to garner much-needed support for the migrants in an event called “No Hate: Refugee Caravan Solidarity Rally.”
Lupita Romero of the International Socialist Organization headed the rally.
“We have to recognize that Latin America has always been an experiment for the U.S.,” Romero said.
Sara Gozalo of the New Sanctuary Coalition passed around sheets calling for attendees to travel en masse to greet the migrants and show solidarity with them.
“We do not have VIP areas of the world where someone’s humanity means more simply because you had the privilege to be born on some random side of some random man-made border,” she said.
Email Sarah Jackson and Jared Peraglia at [email protected]