The Central American Migrant Invasion Caravan Is Nearing the US Border
A migrant caravan that began its journey through Mexico a month ago is nearing the US border, where its arrival will set up a confrontation between the Trump administration's anti-immigration policies and US laws that require the United States to grant asylum to people with valid persecution claims.
Mexico, whose laws on immigration are very tough, must stop people from going through Mexico and into the U.S. We may make this a condition of the new NAFTA Agreement. Our Country cannot accept what is happening! Also, we must get Wall funding fast.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2018
A group of women and children from the migrant caravan are expected to arrive in Mexicali, on the Mexican side of the US border, sometime Tuesday after an overnight bus trip from Hermosillo, in Mexico's Sonora state.
While media attention to the caravan has dropped in recent weeks, the Trump administration has been keeping a watchful eye on the caravan's progress. Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said Monday that her agency was monitoring "the remnants" of the caravan.
“If members of the ‘caravan’ enter the country illegally, they will be referred for prosecution for illegal entry in accordance with existing law," Nielsen said in a statement. "For those seeking asylum, all individuals may be detained while their claims are adjudicated efficiently and expeditiously, and those found not to have a claim will be promptly removed from the United States."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions also issued a statement Monday, saying the migrants and "their smugglers" had ignored the willingness of the Mexican government to allow them to stay in Mexico.
"Our nation has the most generous immigration system in the world, but this is a deliberate attempt to undermine our laws and overwhelm our system. There is no right to demand entry without justification," Sessions said in a statement. “Promoting and enforcing the rule of law is essential to protecting a nation, its borders, and its citizens. But, as President Trump has warned, the need to fix these loopholes and weaknesses in our immigration system is critical and overdue."
That statement was countered by Amnesty International Tuesday morning, which pointed out that "seeking asylum is not a crime in the USA or anywhere."
"The efforts of US officials to tarnish asylum seekers as criminals are cynical fabrications that ring hollow,” the statement said, attributing the comment to Erika Guevara Rosas, the group's Americas director.
Officials of Pueblos Sin Fronteras, the volunteer group that organized the caravan, have said throughout the journey that migrants have the right to ask the US for asylum and that the United States must grant them the opportunity to do so.
Alex Mensing, an organizer with Pueblos Sin Fronteras, said the right to refuge is established in US law.
The first group of migrants to arrive at the border will be housed at Hotel Migrante, just yards from the US border. The two-story building, which takes up almost an entire block, is able to house hundreds of migrants and sits above a bar and restaurant.
Sergio Tamai, director of Hotel Migrante and Angeles Sin Fronteras, a migrant aid group, said they were more than willing and able to house the migrants. They were also preparing for more people to come later in the day or Wednesday.
He said the group had been told to expect 250 people Tuesday on buses, and that another 400 people who are traveling atop trains should arrive shortly after. The hotel, he said, could accommodate as many as 600; the overflow can easily be accommodated at other nearby locations, he said.
On Tuesday morning, he was yelling at volunteers to start blocking off parking spaces in front of the building for expected government vehicles, while a woman ran upstairs with her arms weighed down with blankets.
Tamai said it's important for Mexicans to help Central Americans making the trek through their country.
"How can we support an immigration system that forces people to hide and jump on trains where they're attacked and assaulted," Tamai told BuzzFeed News.
The Trump administration had claimed a victory after the caravan was stopped in Oaxaca by Mexican immigration authorities who said they were going to disband it after giving people documents that gave them permission to remain in Mexico for up to 30 days.
The caravan, however, did not disband and left Mexico City with about 600 people who were headed to the US or northern parts of Mexico. There appeared to be no efforts by the Mexican government to stop the caravan after it left Mexico City.
Trump renewed calls for Mexico to stop the caravan and for funding the border wall.