Honduran Migrant Caravan Calling Trump’s Bluff on Immigration Policy
By Sylvia Longmire
Columnist, In Homeland Security
Oct. 10, 2018 saw the formation of another migrant caravan bound for the U.S.-Mexico border—this one originating in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. What was expected to amount to only a hundred or so people quickly grew to a group of over 1,000 Honduras desperate to escape gang violence and poverty. As they march north and close in on the southwest border, many are wondering how the Trump administration will react to their arrival, and if he is serious about possibly reinstating a highly controversial family separation policy.
The journey for the caravan en route to the U.S. isn’t short and isn’t easy. They first have to pass through cartel-infested parts of Guatemala, and then through Mexico, whose immigration routes are also controlled by violent drug cartels. U.S. immigration authorities and the State Department are trying to work with the Mexican government to solicit their help in stopping the caravan short of the border. The Mexican Foreign Ministry announced on October 18 than parts of the caravan have already begun to arrive.
Mexico Attempts To Deal With The Caravan
According to CNN, the Mexican government has outlined a plan to deal with the caravan by stepping up its southern border enforcement. However, this enforcement hasn’t exactly been stringent in the past, allowing hundreds of thousands of Central American migrants to pass north—including other caravans that have successfully reached the U.S. Mexico border. However, Mexico knows it’s receiving more publicity than usual for this particular migrant group, and has even requested assistance from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
President Trump is responding forcefully to the situation, threatening to end foreign aid to Honduras and send military troops to “shut down” the southern border if Mexico can’t stop the “onslaught.” This puts Mexico in a very tricky situation, as it has just negotiated a new trade deal with the U.S. It also wants to avoid appearing hypocritical, as the Mexican government often protests the treatment of its citizens living illegally in the U.S. Poor or rough treatment of transiting Honduran migrants—who are supported by many in Mexico—would reflect badly on Mexico’s political position. Mexico’s current president, who has deported more Central Americans than the U.S., is a lame duck, and the new president isn’t interested in propping up Trump’s immigration policies.
Not The First Caravan
This type of caravan isn’t new, and actually occurred only six months ago. Trump also threatened to end Honduran aid at the time, and several hundred Hondurans successfully crossed the border and requested asylum. The Department of Homeland Security family separation policy began shortly afterwards, but was shut down two months later due to legal and humanitarian concerns.
However, on October 12, the Washington Post reported that Trump was considering another version of the “zero tolerance” policy in response to rising border crossing numbers. Senior administration officials say they don’t plan to revive the highly controversial original family separation policy, but feel they have to do something. U.S. officials say senior White House adviser Stephen Miller is advocating for tougher measures because he believes the springtime separations worked as an effective deterrent to illegal crossings.
As the caravan works their way through southern Mexico, it’s unclear how Trump or DHS will deal with potentially hundreds of families that will likely arrive at the U.S. border over the next few weeks. What is clear is that Trump has not cut foreign aid to Honduras and cannot shut down the southern border to prevent the caravan’s crossing.