By Jarrett Dang
This is a developing story. Details are subject to change. The story was last updated on 10/27/2018
Thousands of Central American migrants hope to make their way to the United States by walking across Mexico, reports the Associated Press. The “migrant caravan” originated in Honduras on October 12 and originally consisted of less than 200 migrants, but has now swelled to over 7,000.
The Associated Press reports that as of October 24, the 7,000-person caravan was more than 1,000 miles from the closest U.S. border crossing at McAllen, Texas. The caravan is making steady progress and has traveled 45 miles North since crossing the Guatemala-Mexico border.
Mexican authorities have pursued half-hearted efforts to try to stop the caravan from reaching the U.S. According to the Washington Post, the Mexican government has offered temporary asylum to anyone in the caravan willing to submit to processing at the Guatemala-Mexico border.
Riot police blocked off a key bridge connecting Guatemala and Mexico but have otherwise let the caravan pass undisturbed. Likewise, the Mexican government refused to deploy its military against the migrants.
“It would be inadmissible in Mexico to use the army against these people,” said a top Mexican official to the Washington Post.
Locals in towns that the caravan passed through have shown their support for the migrants, giving them food, water, and sometimes helping them reach their destination by offering rides in vehicles. The Mexican Red Cross and local churches have provided the worn-down migrants with much-needed medical aid.
The migrant caravan has sparked a political firestorm in the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump has taken a strong stance against the migrants and has repeatedly threatened to send the U.S. military to the border to repel the caravan, says the Associated Press.
President Trump is using the migrant caravan to attack Democrats and to strengthen his standing among his political base. USA Today reports that the President accused Democrats of funding the caravan, and leveraged the situation to strengthen the Republican Party’s message before the midterm elections, tweeting, “…think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic immigration laws! Remember the Midterms!”
Trump also tweeted on October 22 that there were “unknown Middle Easterners” mixed with the migrant caravan. The Associated Press says that none of its reporters can corroborate his claim. Some deportees have joined the caravan, says the Washington Post.
Trump has also threatened to cut off support to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador for failing to stop their people from leaving. According to Voice of America, Trump said, “Every year, we give them foreign aid. And they did nothing for us. Nothing.”
The Trump Administration has also moved to deploy the U.S. military to the border. CNN reports that Secretary of Defense James Mattis signed an order to deploy 800 or more troops to the border.
The attention surrounding this caravan seems to have inspired the creation of at least one other large caravan headed to the United States. The Wall Street Journal reports that another caravan of Honduran migrants has gathered near the Guatemalan border and numbers up to 2,500 people.
People in Central America are fleeing rampant violence and poverty that plagues nations like Honduras, one of the poorest nations in the Americas. With almost two-thirds of Hondurans living in poverty, gang violence runs rampant and the government is often powerless to do anything against them.
Government corruption is also common in the country. It scored 29 out of 100 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, ranking it in the top 25 percent of the most corrupt countries in the world.
Each year, these factors drive thousands of Hondurans to leave their homes and make the arduous journey to the United States in search of a better life.