Four thousand migrants are currently walking through southern Mexico to the United States border in the largest caravan in human history.
The caravan originated in Honduras with roughly a thousand people and grew to its present number by attracting spur-of-the-moment migrants in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico who were also seeking an opportunity to flee the instability and insecurity of their homelands.
This was the first caravan organized by the migrants themselves rather than NGOs,or non-governmental, non-profit, voluntary citizens’ groups like Frontera Sur; it was a conscious and collective decision to abandon their countries, their communities, and oftentimes their families, putting their fates in the hands of an administration that is already exploring means to deny them asylum and station troops designed to put an end to the migrants’ 2,100-mile journey toward a better future for themselves and their loved ones.
President Donald Trump deployed 5,600 American troops the the southwest border. This action followed his pre-midterm election claims that an approaching migrant caravan of Central Americans equals a foreign “invasion” that he believes warrants 15,000 active-duty military troops to the border states of Texas, Arizona, and California despite Pentagon leadership attempting to convince him otherwise, according to the New York Times.
“Our country needs to set an example if it wants to be ‘the land of the free,’” said Gina Russell, senior. “There’s a moral obligation when our country has the means to support these people who need it most. We should not stand idly by while people are dying in their home countries. When they decide to form an amazing group to prove a point, we cannot deny their efforts.”
The Department of Defense worries that if the number of troops sent to the border does reach 15,000, this could cost them $200 million with a 2019 fiscal budget already drained from fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, continuing the war in Afghanistan, and preparing for a potential conflict with a foreign nation. Even still, these troops are lacking morale for what Maryland Representative and former Army helicopter pilot Anthony D. Brown called a “dubious mission.”
These migrants are fleeing extreme levels of criminal violence with murder rates at catastrophic levels including gangs committing extortion and kidnapping; a backward return to authoritarianism accompanied by the utilization of authoritarianism and force against protestors; and economic failure that has pushed people into extreme poverty. Beyond just Mexico, or example, Costa Rica is currently handling people fleeing from Nicaragua by the thousands following the mass killing of hundreds after a government crackdown against protests. Colombia, Brazil, and Peru, on the other hand, are coping with a huge influx of Venezuelans, as stated by the New York Times.
Data from The World Bank shows over two-thirds of people live in poverty, and this worsened from recent drought and political turmoil. In Venezuela, people are resorting to searching garbages for food. Children are sleeping in crowded plazas; families are seeing news of the caravan on television and abandoning their lives to join the journey within a matter of hours, most without possession, money, or a change of clothes. A majority are living off handouts from humanitarian efforts.
“The caravan is a big example of perseverance and striving for a better life in today’s world because of the large number of people making their way across such a long distance,” said Jamie DiBiase, senior. “I think it shows a lot of courage and strength.”
So many of these migrants have banded together, using strength in numbers to defend themselves from criminals or detainment and deportation by policemen.
The clock is ticking as the caravan grows nearer and nearer to the southwest United States border, and the ever-polarized American political climate continues to debate on the method of its reception.