There’s a Storm Coming

Central American Caravan faces growing pressure as thousands of migrants approach the border.

Anthony Karambelas, General Assignment Reporter

Recent weeks have driven a lot northward: voter turnouts, gun-related homicides, and now over 6,000 Central American migrants fleeing violence in their respective countries to seek asylum in the U.S. But along with these migrants comes the pall of a steadily mounting political frenzy.


Trump has scapegoated the migrant caravan in recent weeks, diverting attention from the worsening state of the American economy and instead inciting his base of politically conservative voters into action before the midterm election. It is a tactic by no means unusual for Trump, whose campaigning style generally dredges up intense anti-immigrant rhetoric in the final hours.


This time around, the election seems to have made Central Americans a bewilderingly major point of contention. Bewildering because most of the migrants themselves are disinterested in the apparatus of American bi-partisan politics that scrutinizes their every movement.


“The bottom line is, most people in Honduras frankly could not care less about elections in the U.S.,” said Oscar Chacón, the executive director of Alianza Americas.


What do they care about? For many like Jorge Gomez, a Guatemalan 14-year-old, and Josue Rosales, an Honduran 29-year-old, with no steady job and a victim of robbery, escalating violence and a sordid lack of opportunity makes the great migration north the only remaining option. This is no ploy to exploit American resources or jobs. It’s a matter of survival.


This does not mean Trump will be reducing his punishment for asylum-seekers. He has already ordered the U.S. military to the southern border in an overt display of anti-immigrant militarization. With desperate migrants going to desperate measures to secure passage to a better life and a spike in border patrol agents and soldiers awaiting their arrival, things could get ugly very soon.


Trump refuses to soften his “zero tolerance” policy for illegal immigration, precipitating a bottleneck at the officially recognized ports of entry along the U.S. border, including San Diego, Yuma, and El Paso. Long lines and sluggish court proceedings mean year-long waits for many of these migrants to meet their fate. Those who refuse to wait either stay in Mexico or attempt illegal passage. If caught, they are criminally prosecuted and forced to wait another three to ten years for legal entry.


“Our asylum system is overwhelmed with too many meritless asylum claims from aliens who place a tremendous burden on our resources, preventing us from being able to expeditiously grant asylum to those who truly deserve it,” said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker in a joint statement.


Last year, over 150,000 migrants entered the U.S. through asylum claims. Trump’s rhetoric conflates these asylum-seekers with terrorist organizations like MS-13, whose criminal activity these migrants are actually fleeing.


Trump’s rhetoric has legitimized much xenophobia from the Republican party. Some Republicans now believe that these caravan migrants will invade and occupy southern summer lake homes belonging to affluent families. Even the Vice President believes that Middle Eastern terrorists could be mixed into the caravan.


“It is inconceivable that there would not be individuals from the Middle East as part of this growing caravan,” Pence said.


At the moment, most of these migrants are coming from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Though they are facing mixed reactions from Mexican citizens–many of whom believe they are attracting crime to their neighborhoods–along their trek, they have been largely cared for. Large groups do have their advantages, reducing the risk of violence and exploitation.


So, caravan migrants trudge on, most in the clothes they were wearing the day they decided to leave. Poor quality shoes, flip-flops, and unsuitable articles of clothing have come to define this band of freedom-seekers.