President Trump uses the army to stop the horde of migrants on its way to the US. The ‘refugees’ are still far from the border, but will reach it in a next week. There are elections next week. It may be not a coincidence and as the horde is well organized and financed it may be also ordered from within the US.
There are 5,200 soldiers going to the border with Mexico to guard against the migrant caravan, the Pentagon announced on Monday. That is more than twice the number of US soldiers fighting IS in Syria. It looks like war. The US has to arm itself against an invasion, the US president explains. “This is an invasion of our country and our army is waiting for you!” Tweeted Trump. With the ‘refugee’ horde on his way to the US, he also tries to get gang members, terrorists from the Middle East and other criminals into the country.
What is going on? A few thousand migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are on their way to the US. It began in mid-October with a group of about two hundred refugees from San Pedro Sula, a city in Honduras, ravaged by poverty and corruption, notorious for gang violence.
More and more people who heard about the caravan on TV, via Facebook and WhatsApp joined in. Like the 23-year-old Kenya Yoselin Gutierrez. The young mother wanted to flee her hopeless existence in Honduras for some time, but stories about women being raped along the way, kidnapped children and disappeared migrants stunned her, she tells AP news agency. “It’s not easy to take this path alone,” says Gutierrez, who hopes to give her five-year-old daughter a better future in the USA.
More than 2000 children travel along with the caravan, UNICEF estimated Friday. Among them are the three children of Jenifer Ramirez and her husband, including their five-month-old daughter. The family left hastily from Honduras because the man, bus driver by profession, threatened to be murdered by gang members if he refused to transport drugs for them. They do not have money for a smuggler. “In the group we get help”, says Ramirez to AP, referring to the food and the sleeping places that they are offered along the route.
Migrant caravans are not a new phenomenon in Central America. Traveling in a large group offers people protection in areas where drug cartels and gangs sow terror. It is cheaper here. In the vicinity of the border between Mexico and the US, extortion and kidnapping migrants is big business for criminals. In a large group, migrants also do not have to fear that they will be arrested. Mexico is under heavy pressure from the US to leave no one on the border. Illegals from Central American countries are therefore forced to travel at night or spend a lot of money on smugglers who arrange a bus or truck. Now they can travel during the day. On foot.
It does not go fast. The group is still about 1500 kilometers away from the nearest border crossing with the US. With a speed of 50 kilometers per day on average, it will take a while before they are there. Due to exhaustion, illness and laggards, the group has now been considerably depleted. Of the 7000 migrants who traveled together at the peak, about half is left. A smaller group of several hundred migrants is not even in Mexico yet. They tried to cross a bridge on the border with Guatemala in recent days. That ended Sunday in a battle with the Mexican police where one migrant was killed.
It is no coincidence that Trump is fighting so hard against the migrants now. Not only is this caravan larger than previous caravans, the mid-term elections in the US are less than a week away. Images of the impressive refugee flow provided Republicans with an excellent opportunity to turn migration into the election theme. In the conservative Midwest, there is a lot of resistance against foreigners and migrants who would take jobs from hard-working Americans. The plan to build a wall on the border with Mexico helped Trump win two years ago.
The president is therefore firmly convinced that the number of asylum applications is actually rising (last year a record number of 331,700, a doubling compared to 2015). There is no evidence that many criminals are also on the migrant flow, as Trump claims. Just as there is no evidence for his claim that the Democrats have orchestrated this ‘attack’ of migrants (the Democrats do not want open borders either, as Trump’s predecessor Obama had millions of illegal immigrants expelled from the country). But with the voters who can help the Republicans on Tuesday a victory, that frightening message could sometimes catch on.
In harsh words Trump threatens to close the border with Mexico and stop all financial support to Central America. To accommodate the US, Mexico offers migrants work visas when they apply for asylum in the south of that country. Several hundred people have used it so far. Most, however, seem determined to reach the US. Even if it is questionable how many of them succeed, and that will only be after the elections.